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Bluegrass great Earl Scruggs dead at 88
By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 12:25 AM EDT, Thu March 29, 2012
(CNN) -- Earl Scruggs, whose distinctive picking style and association with Lester Flatt cemented bluegrass music's place in popular culture, died Wednesday of natural causes at a Nashville hospital, his son Gary Scruggs said. He was 88.
"I realize his popularity throughout the world went way beyond just bluegrass and country music," Gary Scruggs told CNN. "It was more than that."
For many of a certain age, Scruggs' banjo was part of the soundtrack of an era on "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" -- the theme song from the CBS sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies," which aired on CBS from 1962 to 1971 and for decades afterward in syndication.
But much more than that, he popularized a three-finger picking style that brought the banjo to the fore in a supercharged genre, and he was an indispensable member of the small cadre of musical greats who created modern bluegrass music.
Scruggs was born in 1924 to a musically gifted family in rural Cleveland County, North Carolina, according to his official biography. His father, a farmer and a bookkeeper, played the fiddle and banjo, his mother was an organist and his older siblings played guitar and banjo, as well.
Young Earl's exceptional gifts were apparent early on. He started playing the banjo at age 4 and he started developing his three-finger style at the age of 10.
"The banjo was, for all practical purposes, 'reborn' as a musical instrument," the biography on his official website declares, "due to the talent and prominence Earl Scruggs gave to the instrument."
While Scruggs' status as the Prometheus of the banjo may be overstated, many musicians feel he changed the game. Fiddler John Hartman, quoted in Barry R. Willis' "America's Music: Bluegrass," summed it up this way: "Everybody's all worried about who invented the style and it's obvious that three-finger banjo pickers have been around a long time -- maybe since 1840. But my feeling about it is that if it wasn't for Earl Scruggs, you wouldn't be worried about who invented it."
In an article on the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's website, bluegrass historian Neil V. Rosenberg described Scruggs' style as "a 'roll' executed with the thumb and two fingers of his right hand" that essentially made the banjo "a lead instrument like a fiddle or a guitar, particularly on faster pieces and instrumentals. This novel sound attracted considerable attention to their Grand Ole Opry performances, road shows, and Columbia recordings."
In 1945, Scruggs met Flatt when he joined Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, for whom Flatt was the guitarist and lead vocalist. Along with the group's mandolin-playing namesake were fiddler Chubby Wise and bassist Howard Watts (alias: Cedric Rainwater).
Scruggs and Flatt left Monroe in 1948 to form the Foggy Mountain Boys, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame website. Along with guitarist/vocalists Jim Eanes and Mac Wiseman, fiddler Jim Shumate and Blue Grass Boys alum Rainwater, the group played on WCYB in Bristol, Tennessee, and recorded for the Mercury label.
He married Anne Louise Certain that year. In the '50s she became Flatt & Scruggs' business manager. They were married for more than 57 years until her death in 2006.
The Foggy Mountain Boys' roster changed over the years, but Flatt and Scruggs became the constants, the signature sound of the group on radio programs, notably those sponsored by Martha White Flour, and as regulars at the Grand Ole Opry. They became syndicated TV stars in in the Southeast in the late 1950s and early '60s, and they hit the country charts with the gospel tune "Cabin on the Hill."
But it was during an appearance at a Hollywood folk club that brought them into contact with the producer of "The Beverly Hillbillies" and led to "The Ballad of Jed Clampett." It was their only single to climb to No.1 on the country charts.
The 1967 film "Bonnie and Clyde" featured their 1949 instrumental "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," with its distinctive Scruggs-style banjo solo perhaps the most ubiquitous of bluegrass sounds.
The duo split in 1969, and Scruggs' fame as a solo and featured act continued to grow, even as his most iconic licks echoed through the years among his acolytes -- basically, anyone who played banjo, and many who picked other instruments.
Playing "Foggy Mountain" on banjo became a staple of Steve Martin's comedy routine, and blossomed into a reverential tribute. In November 2001, Martin and Scruggs were joined by Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, Jerry Douglas and others on "Late Show With David Letterman" to play a fiery version of the song -- soloing alternately on banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, steel guitar and harmonica. Even Paul Schafer took the chorus for a spin on piano.
In an article in the New Yorker in January, Martin wrote, "A grand part of American music owes a debt to Earl Scruggs. Few players have changed the way we hear an instrument the way Earl has, putting him in a category with Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Chet Atkins, and Jimi Hendrix."
Flatt & Scruggs were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985, six years after Lester Flatt's death. In 1991, Scruggs, Flatt and Monroe were the first inductees in the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.
His sons Gary and Randy both are accomplished musicians and songwriters, and played with their dad in a 1973 album, "The Earl Scruggs Revue."
CNN's Cameron Tankersley, Denise Quan and Andy Rose contributed to this report.
Earl Scruggs' unique three-finger-roll style revolutionized the banjo and its role in bluegrass and country music.
Bluegrass great Earl Scruggs dead at 88
By the CNN Wire Staff
For those who are not familiar with the late musician Jeff Buckley, this article profile his career and his first album "Grace".For those who are not familiar with the late musician Jeff Buckley, this article... more
By Julian Zimmerman October 22, 2010, . Story by Julian Zimmerman /AP Def Jam was created by Rick Rubin in his dorm room at New York University and its first release was a single by his punk-rock group, Hose. Russell Simmons joined Rubin shortly after they were introduced to each other by DJ Jazzy Jay. The first single released with a Def Jam Recordings logo was T La Rock & Jazzy Jay "It's Yours." The first releases with a Def Jam Recordings catalog number were LL Cool J's "I Need a Beat" and the Beastie Boys' "Rock Hard," both in 1984. The singles sold well, eventually leading to a distribution deal with CBS Records' (which would later become Sony Music Entertainment) Columbia Records the following year. This created a short-lived subsidiary label called OBR Records, catered toward R&B artists — the first artist signed to that imprint was Oran "Juice" Jones, who enjoyed success with his hit single "The Rain". Def Jam also signed their first and only thrash metal band Slayer in 1986, and their debut album was the only Def Jam release to be distributed through Geffen Records, as opposed to Columbia. As the decade drew to a close, the label signed Public Enemy, whose controversial lyrical content garnered the company both critical acclaim and disdain. Lord Hector Diono a native Washingtonian, now an Atlanta Georgia based music producer and recording artist teamed up with the covenant Def Jam Records A&R Veteran Michael"Goldie Mack" Greaux who has taken on the task of managing the underground heavy weight for better distribution and placement for his music production company Dark Town Licensing as well as his indie label Dark Town Music Group,llc after receiving an email from an international online music watch dog administrator The rapper, crooner/song writer, and music producer sealed the deal October 16, 2010 for the distribution of his next ten Album projects and the next 50 singles. "Jacob's Ladder (Climb it)was remastered and is set to be released on March 14, 2011 this is the first of many music releases to come from the Georgia based music icon, now available at all major online music outlets, industry insiders are asked to contact the Def Jam Universal A&R Veteran Michael"Goldie" Greaux regarding any interest in Lord Hector Diono whom he officially signed to his management company May 11, 2011. By Julian Zimmerman October 22, 2010By Julian Zimmerman October 22, 2010, . Story by Julian Zimmerman /AP Def Jam was... more
Bob Dylan demos, early mono albums on the way
August 24, 2010 | 11:39 am
Bob Dylan - Bootleg 9 - Cover Columbia Records is wrapping up a trove of early Bob Dylan recordings that will surface in time for the holidays, among them 47 early demo recordings by the fabled singer-songwriter that previously had never been officially released. The other major component of the two-pronged release slated for Oct. 19 is “Bob Dylan – The Original Mono Recordings,” consisting of the monaural mixes of his first eight studio albums, from “Bob Dylan” through 1967’s “John Wesley Harding.”
Recordings known as “The Witmark Demos,” recorded from 1962-64 for Dylan’s first two music publishers, will make up Volume 9 in the ongoing “Bootleg Series” of archival releases. They feature Dylan alone playing guitar and harmonica, and some piano, on such watershed songs as “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” as well as 15 numbers that never subsequently surfaced on his studio albums, including “Ballad for a Friend,” “Long Ago, Far Away” and “The Ballad of Emmett Till."
The mono box set, akin to “The Beatles in Mono” released last year, is being issued because those early albums were originally intended by Dylan to be released in that format, which was the dominant medium at a time when stereo recording was still young. Critic and author Greil Marcus writes the essay accompanying the box set, which also includes “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’," “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde.”
-- Randy Lewis
Album cover credit: Columbia RecordsBob Dylan demos, early mono albums on the way
August 24, 2010 | 11:39 am
Bob Dylan... more
AC/DC To Release An 'Iron Man 2' Soundtrack Compilation Album
Even though "Back in Black" played shortly before the attack that would lead to Tony Stark's Iron Man transformation, for whatever reason rockers AC/DC got the shaft on the first IM movie soundtrack. Fans need not worry, however, a new release in conjunction with "Iron Man 2" sees the band redeemed fifteenfold.
Marvel and partners Columbia Records have announced that AC/DC will release "AC/DC: Iron Man2," a compilation/soundtrack stocked with 15 songs culled from 10 of the band's albums.
http://www.comicsalliance.com/2010/01/26/ac-dc-to-release-an-iron-man-2-soundtrack-compilation-album/AC/DC To Release An 'Iron Man 2' Soundtrack Compilation Album
Even though... more
I filmed and edited this.
Passion Pit, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, has announced the the release of their first full length album titled, "Manners". This album will follow up to their widely talked about Chunk of Change EP.
Columbia Records are planning on releasing this album in the UK on May 18. The NYC indie label, Frenchkiss, will release the album throughout North America on May 26. Before the album release, the band plans to play a massive amount of shows.
Track List for Manners:
01 Make Light
02 Little Secrets
03 Moth's Wings
04 The Reeling
05 Eyes as Candles
06 Swimming in the Flood
07 Folds in Your Hands
08 To Kingdom Come
10 Let Your Love Grow Tall
11 Seaweed Song
02-27 Leeds, England - Brudenell Rooms
03-01 Dublin, Ireland - Whelans
03-02 Paris, France - Nouveau Casino
03-18 Oklahoma City, OK - The Conservatory
03-19-21 Austin, TX - SXSW
03-24 Bloomington, IN - Cinemat
03-25 Akron, OK - Musica
03-26 Ann Arbor, MI - Blind Pig
03-27 Rochester, NY - Water Street Music Hall
03-28 Syracuse, NY - Westcott Theatre
04-01 Montreal, Quebec - Divan Orange
04-02 Ottawa, Ontario - Zaphod Beeblebrox
04-03 Toronto, IN - Lee's Palace
04-04 Waterloo, Ontario - Starlight Room
05-15 Brighton, England - Great Escape Festival
09-11 Isle of Wight, England - Bestival
-V.Passion Pit, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, has announced the the release of their... more