Who is Earl Scruggs?
When it comes anything about the banjo, the name which comes first is Earl Scruggs. He is one of the most influential banjo players of all time. If you are willing to know or learn about the banjo, he comes on top of your priority list. He established himself as the “Father of Bluegrass Banjo”.
Earl Scruggs grew up in a musical family. All of his family members used to play music. His father used to play an open back banjo who died when he was four years old. Earl started playing banjo at the age of 4 and that day wouldn’t far he become an old hand of banjo playing. At the age of 15, he started playing at the local radio station. He started experimenting with banjo playing techniques from his teenage and there was never looking back.
Earl Scruggs’ Style of 3-finger banjo
Clearly, Scruggs spent a lot of time with a banjo. After mastering the old techniques, which includes 2-finger banjo, he started to experiment with those methods. Gradually he mastered the picking technique, which includes the thumb and first two fingers of right hand. Afterward, this technique is called 3-finger banjo or “Scrugg’s Style” which is slightly different from 5-finger banjo. He practiced it until he could play it with incredible speed and clearness. It did not take much longer to spread this technique worldwide among the banjo players. Till now, Scrugg’s style is considered as a standard in bluegrass.
However, you also need to know that Scruggs is not the inventor of 3-finger banjo. Earl himself said that it was the most common technique of playing the banjo. He used to practice old techniques such as 2 finger banjo.
Let me share a story with you. When Earl Scruggs was 10 years old, he had a quarrel with his brother. He was upset and idly playing a song in his room. The song was called “Reuben” and one of a sudden he noticed that instead of playing with 2 fingers he was playing the banjo with 3 fingers. He got so excited and ran all over the house, shouting, “I’ve got it”. From then he devoted all his time playing 3 finger banjo. One of his influencers was a farmer who used to play banjo with him for hours.
Earl Scruggs’ occupation before Banjo:
Earl Scruggs devoted all his life into the banjo. Banjo was in his mind and soul. He stared banjo playing from his childhood. He started his career also with banjo 1939. In that year, he started playing with Morris Brothers at the age of 15. He quit playing because he started a job in a textile mill named “Lily Textile Mill”. In this job, he earned two cents per hour. He worked in that mill until World War II. After that, he got back into music with lost john miller and his allied Kentuckians. This was the time Earl Scruggs, a self-taught artist knew, he and banjo cannot live without each other.
Banjos that he designed:
As I was saying Scruggs and banjo was each other’s counterpart. So it has nothing to wonder that alongside playing banjo Earl started to make banjos as well. Which added some extra source to his income. The banjos he made called “The Earl Scruggs Model”. He designed those banjos with the partnership with a music instrument company named “Vega Musical Instrument Company”. It’s based on Boston and old enough that they had their won “Pete Seegar” model.
Bluegrass players usually prayed banjos from Gibson. That was the first time when they used any other banjos other than Gibson’s. Clearly, the banjos were good but it was not up to the mark as Earl wanted. Therefore, he got back to Gibson and finally, Gibson made the banjo exactly that Earl wanted. They call it “Earl Scrugg’s Standard” which was a replica of the banjo he used.
Awards and honors:
After all the love and devotion Earl Scruggs gave to banjo it is hard to count his awards and honors given to him in fingers. This is natural, when you gave something from your heart you are going to get something in return. Earl Scruggs was no exception.
Here’s in below a list of his most renowned awards and honors.
1968 – Flatt and Earl both won the Grammy award from “Foggy Mountain Breakdown
1985- Flatt and Earl together were inducted – Country Music Hall of Fame.
1989– Nation Heritage Fellowship by National Endowment for the Arts. The heist honor in folk and tradition in us.
1991 – International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.
1992 – National Medals of Art. He was one of the 13 recipients to be awarded. The award is given by the president and authorized by the Congress.
2001 – Scruggs again won a Grammy award for the same some. He had in total four Grammy award in his lifetime.
2003 – Earl Scruggs and Flatt ranked 24 on CMT’s 40 greatest men of country music.
2005 – Earl was honored and an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music.
2008 – lifetime achievement award at the 50th annual Grammy Award.
2009 – North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.
Earl Scruggs is one of the greatest banjoists of all time. He is a Sirius in the sky of Bluegrass music. Music history will never forget his name. His name will shine brightly as long as banjo will exist. Musicians will not forget the contribution of Earl Scruggs. The music industry lost a great talent on 28 March 2012. He died on this day at the age of 88.