When I was young and we only had four channels (yes, I know all those born past 1980 are now gasping in horror), I watched a lot of the “Beverly Hillbillies.” The show seems a bit dumb and dated now and I never watch it anymore, but one thing I do remember from it that was not dumb was the music of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. And, I didn’t even think I liked bluegrass music!
Earl Scruggs died of natural causes yesterday in Nashville at the age of 88. Like many country music greats, Scruggs was born into a family where everyone played an instrument. He started playing the banjo at age 4 and never looked back.
In 1945, he joined Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in 1945. People love his three-finger picking style and by 1948, he and Lester Flatt had left to form the Foggy Mountain Boys. I guess since there were only two of them, the Foggy Mountain Boys later became known just as Flatt and Scruggs.
The two recorded the now famous “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” for “The Beverly Hillbillies” in 1969. It became an instant hit and the two often appeared together on “The Beverly Hillbillies” as friends of the Clampett clan. If I remember correctly, they always had young, attractive wives on the show. Flatt and Scruggs broke up in 1969, but each continued as a solo act.
Flatt and Scruggs won a Grammy in 1969 for “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” but were also known for other hits such as “I Saw the Light,” and “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms.” Scruggs won his second Grammy in 2001. This Grammy was shared with Steve Martin, who played banjo on the recording of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” The duo was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985, six years after Flatt’s death. Scruggs was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1991 and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003.