Sammy Shelor on Earl Scruggs

These ruminations on the passing of Earl Scruggs are a contribution from Sammy Shelor, banjo player and band leader with Lonesome River Band, and a hugely influential contemporary 5 string stylist.

Earl Scruggs influenced American music as much as any one individual. He definitely had a big influence on me.

My parents said before I could talk, the only thing I would watch on TV was commercials, and Flatt & Scruggs. I saw them when I was 4 years old at the Hillsville VFW, and I can still picture it in my mind.

Earl was always very kind to me, both he and Louise.

When I won the IBMA Banjo Player of the Year, I thanked him, saying that if it wasn’t for Earl Scruggs, none of us would be playing the music we’re playing. I ran into Louise in the hallway the next year at IBMA, and she thanked me and asked if I would like to go talk to Earl. I said of course I would!

What I said the year before, I meant it sincerely. I wasn’t trying to get to Earl; I meant it in all due respect.

I got to talk with him for 2 hours. We didn’t even talked about music. He asked me where I was from, and when I told him southwest Virginia, he proceeded to list off every school he had played in this part of the country. If he couldn’t remember one, Lousie stepped in with the details.

He really loved this part of the country, and talked a lot about that.

I feel fortunate that I was able to get to spend some time with him. Talking to him one-on-one meant more to me than anything I could imagine.