We’ve heard this morning from a number of highly-influential banjo players, each sharing their personal reflections on the passing of the greatest among them, the man, THE Earl Scruggs.
Sonny Osborne, who internalized Scruggs music as a young teen, and is recognized as one of the first major banjo artists to put a new spin on the Scruggs style through his work with The Osborne Brothers, waxed philosophic about the loss.
“When a person passes from this life, the question always comes to mind, did they make a difference? Did they help change anything in this world?
The impact Earl made will be felt forever!
I just can’t imagine my world without Earl Scruggs in it, somehow. I’m sure all who read this are feeling the same today.”
The great Ralph Stanley, a contemporary of Scruggs who is still touring with his band, The Clinch Mountain Boys, also recalls Earl as the master.
“I’m sorry to hear that he has passed away. Earl will be missed. He was one of the first and the best 3-finger banjo player. He did more for the 5-string banjo than anyone I know.”
Alan Munde is also celebrated as a banjo innovator, who spent time with Jimmy Martin’s band while Scruggs was still actively touring. He echoes Sonny’s assessment of Scruggs as an agent of change.
“My good friend and picking partner for many years, Joe Carr, wrote a song about teaching at bluegrass music camps. The gist of the jest was, ‘We didn’t mean to change your life; we only wanted to teach you G, C, and D.’
The G, C, and D of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs playing of Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms sure changed my life. Sometimes it is difficult to go back and recreate the feeling one has on hearing Earl’s playing that first time. For me, I get it each time I hear those recordings.
All in one fell swoop Earl Scruggs’ playing was the most exciting, most expertly played, and seemingly beyond human capacity, but so inviting, I naively thought I could do it and continue to try.
Thank you Earl Scruggs.”
And Steve Martin, who is enjoying a career as a banjo man these days, wrote a piece for The New Yorker earlier this year which contained his own thoughts on Scruggs’ legacy. He told us last night that all he could add to that was this…
“Earl Scruggs is a man who changed my life.”
We will have additional reflections on the impact of Earl Scruggs over the next few days.