Bluegrass and banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs has passed away at the age of 88, says his son Gary. Scruggs died of natural causes Wednesday morning (March 28) at a Nashville, Tenn. hospital.
Scruggs is credited with bringing the banjo from a rhythm section instrument to a lead instrument by his three-finger approach to picking, rather than the clawhammer style. His way of playing became known as the “Scruggs picking style” that helped popularize the banjo across many different kinds of music.
He made his debut with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys in the 1940s at the Grand Ole Opry and later teamed with Lester Flatt. They were best known for “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” from “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
Scruggs and Flatt were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985, but he hadn’t stopped playing in recent years. Just 10 years ago he released “Earl Scruggs and Friends,” an album that featured Elton John, Dwight Yoakam, Travis Tritt, Sting, Melissa Etheridge, Vince Gill, John Fogerty, Don Henley, Johnny Cash and actor Steve Martin.
Our condolences to his family and friends. Below, he plays “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” on “The Late Show” with Steve Martin in 2006.