The torch is passed

Bill Evans describes this touching tribute to Earl Scruggs from yesterday’s memorial service in Nashville.

I had the honor and privilege of attending the memorial service for Earl, held at the Ryman Auditorium on Sunday, April 1. There was one incredibly moving moment among many that took place at this service that I will remember for the rest of my life. The Scruggs family gathered a number of banjo players together and asked us to seat ourselves on either side of the center aisle, one banjo player opposite another, on the end of reach row, moving down the center aisle away from where Earl lay.

We held our banjos in front of us and as the casket passed, each of us dipped our instruments down, bringing the banjos up again as the casket moved past us. Kristin Scott Benson was on the same row, opposite me. Ned Luberecki in front of me to my right, Tony Trischka behind me to my left. Noam Pilkelny was in front of Kristin, Tim O’Brien behind her. Richard Bailey, Alison Brown, Charlie Cushman, Randy Escobedo, Warren Kennison, Jr., Dave Talbot, John McEuen and Bela Fleck, among others were up and down the aisle, lowering their instruments in tribute. After the casket was moved through the Ryman, Earl’s banjo followed, carried in a hard shell case.

I can’t express the sense of loss I feel that Earl is gone, however being in the company of so many other players who love him and have been so influenced by him was an incredibly healing experience. Earl’s spirit and music will live on in all of us and it is renewed again each time someone hears that sound and finds their lives forever changed.

  • Mark Byrum

    Very nice report, Bill. I wonder who came up with that idea – I like it! Reminds me of the sword canopy U.S. Military Academy graduates (Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard – my alma mater) have their classmates create with their swords when they get married. Kind of appropriate, I think, since the banjo is our tool or weapon, depending upon how one views it, favorably or unfavorably.
    Do you know whether the service was filmed?

  • Tom Thorpe

    Thank you for writing that touching report, Bill. All day, Sunday, I kept thinking about Earl’s service and wishing I could be there with my friend, Bob Altschuler (LBG Class of 2012), who also loved Earl so much. I could not have envisioned a better tribute to him than the one you described. I think he would have approved, knowing that his music and legacy would live on in so many talented deciples of the banjo and bluegrass music in particular. Bob and I will be running a jam session up here in Albany, NY tonight and will “dip our banjos” in honor of Mr. Scruggs. Then, we’ll pick a hot version of Foggy Mountain Breakdown and Earl’s Breakdown in his memory!
    Thanks again,
    Tom Thorpe
    IBMA LBG Class of 2009