More remembrances of Earl Scruggs

The tributes to Earl Scruggs are coming in faster than we can get them posted! No surprise, given the tremendous impact he had on musicians worldwide, and personally on the many friends he made in the bluegrass and country music industry.

A public funeral will be held this Sunday (4/1) at 2:00 p.m. (CDT) at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Visitation is scheduled both Friday and Saturday from 3:00-7:00 p.m. at the Spring Hill Funeral Home on Gallatin Pike in Nashville.

Curly Seckler, who worked as a member of the Foggy Mountain Boys from 1949 to 1962, recalls his time with Lester and Earl with much fondness.

“It was great to have worked with him. He played some good banjo.

I’ll say one thing, when Lester Flatt would call a number out, Earl would take off with it. As soon as Lester said his last words, we were gone. It was just like clockwork. Earl set the time with his banjo, and he kept it there.

He was a great enterainer, and it’s a big loss to bluegrass music.”

Curly was very glad that he was able to attend Earl’s birthday party in January, where they got to spend some time talking together. It was the last time they saw each other.

Former Blue Grass Boy and Bill Monroe historian Tom Ewing notes the crucial role Earl played in the development of Monroe’s sound.

“Earl Eugene Scruggs helped to change bluegrass into the form we recognize today. In doing this, he was so much more than just ‘a banjo picker.’ His picking was exactly what Bill Monroe needed, in that it, like Monroe’s, came straight from his heart.”

Tom T. and Dixie Hall were close friends of Earl and Louise Scruggs for many years, and feel the loss strongly. Dixie tells us…

“These days come around. And we are never ready. The sheer “enormity” of losing Earl sweeps away any hope of ever going back to ‘normal’ someday as the hurt fades away. But after losing Louise (Earl and Louise were more than business and music colleagues, they were family to us), Maybelle and the girls, and John Cash I’ve learned that it’s not only the immediate physical loss but the following years without them that twists the knife. However, I trust God knows what He’s doing and whatever one’s personal belief, the comfort is to keep them in your heart and stay in touch.”

And Tom T. shared just a few words.

“The world seems a much smaller place. I’m so glad we got to do that album together (The Storyteller and the Banjo Man).”

Fiddle monster Michael Cleveland, also a crackerjack bano player, remembers the time he got to pick with Scruggs:

“I got to meet and pick with Earl Scruggs once about three years ago. Haskell McCormick, who played with Lester Flatt and the Nashville Grass in the Late 60’s and early 70’s invited some friends and I to go with him to Earl’s house in Nashville. I remember being all excited when we were on the way over there that I was finally going to meet and possibly get to pick with Earl.

I wasn’t a bit nervous until we got to the gate of his property. Haskell called Earl to let him know that we were there so Earl could open the gate for us and Haskell happened to have the cell phone on speaker. When I heard Earl’s voice, all of a sudden I got real nervous and I don’t get nervous that often. I don’t think I said two words the entire visit but I do remember that we picked Foggy Mountain Special. It is one thing to listen to all of your heroes on record, but to be in the same room and to have that sound come from across the room at you is pretty awesome!!!

The other thing I noticed when playing that one tune with Earl was that aside from the great lead playing, his banjo chop was the most powerful and suportive chop I’ve ever played with. I noticed the same thing when I got to play with Sam Bush last year. The rhythm that those guys play just elevates the whole rhythm section around them and it makes everyone else play better. I’m glad I got the opportunity to meet and pick with Earl.”

Alison Krauss & Union Station bass player Barry Bales has recorded a podcast dedicate to Scruggs’ memory. You can listen to it online.

And contemporary banjo man Chris Pandolfi of Infamous Stringdusters penned a heartfelt remembrance on his blog. The entire piece is worth your attention, but it ends thusly:

“We as banjo players will always continue to innovate and evolve, and Earl wouldn’t have it any other way. But the mystery of how to make beautiful music with three picks and five strings has already largely been solved. He gave us the tools, and now we celebrate him with our music. It’s unreal. It’s beautiful. Thank you Earl Scruggs. We are forever grateful.”

We’ll have several more Scruggs tributes over the next few days.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.