Surely there is no greater shock in life than the sudden, tragic loss of a young person. The bluegrass world lost one this past Memorial Day weekend when Tyler Smith, a young banjo picker from Knoxville, TN, died while on vacation in Florida. He was 25 years of age.
Tyler and his girlfriend, Brina Laster, were spending the holiday weekend in Florida, and at one point, he jumped into the water and didn’t come back up. People on the scene were able to bring him back to the surface, and paramedics successfully reestablished a pulse, but Smith passed away at the hospital shortly thereafter.
In his short life, Tyler had dedicated himself to the study of Earl Scruggs’ banjo playing, focusing on his music from the time he joined up with Bill Monroe in 1945 until the mid-1950s. He adopted not only Earl’s style of playing, but also the habits of dress from this period, and antique automobiles of the day.
Tyler performed regularly, both with regional acts in East Tennessee and as a fill in national touring acts. Fellow musicians remember his sparkling playing and devotion to “the way Earl did it,” plus his good nature and love of a good laugh.
The family will receive visitors on Saturday, June 4, at Berry Lynnhurst Funeral Home in Knoxville from 2:00-6:00 p.m., with a funeral service to follow. Graveside services will be held on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.
As is typically the case for young people, Tyler had no life insurance, nor any savings for funeral expenses. Friends have launched a GoFundMe page in an effort to raise $10,000 to cover his final medical expenses and burial costs. If you can spare a few dollars, this seems like an especially worthy cause for anyone who loves bluegrass music, and bluegrass people.
R.I.P., Tyler Smith.