Bluegrass Legend Earl Scruggs Dies at 88

Earl's three-fingered style of banjo picking is today's bluegrass standard.

Bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs has died, according to various media reports. Earl was one-half of the bluegrass duo Flatt & Scruggs. Earl, 88, died on Wednesday morning (March 28) at a Nashville hospital.

Born on Jan. 6, 1924 in Flint Hill, N. C., Earl first came to prominence as a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, which he joined in the mid-1940s.  With Monroe, he showcased and popularized a revolutionary style of three-finger banjo picking, a style that would later become known as "Scruggs style." Earl was often referred to by Grand Ole Opry announcer George D. Hay as "the boy who made the banjo talk." Earl's influential finger-picking style made an imprint on virtually every banjo solo heard in bluegrass and country music today.

In early 1948, both Earl and fellow Blue Grass Boy Lester Flatt left to form The Foggy Mountain Boys, later known simply as Flatt & Scruggs.

Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, the duo's career benefited from a musical revolt of sorts when American youths, unwilling to embrace prefabricated pop idols of the period, helped to fuel a folk music revival. In 1962, Flatt & Scruggs (with Jerry Scoggins on vocal) were tapped to record what would become their best-known song, "The Ballad of Jed Clampett," the theme song of the television sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies. Flatt & Scruggs also made numerous appearances on the show. The duo continued a string of success with hits including "Pearl, Pearl, Pearl" and "You Are My Flower." The duo disbanded in 1969 due to musical differences; Flatt & Scruggs were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985. Earl was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 1991

Vince Gill, performing in Nashville on Wednesday night (March 28) as part of the annual songwriting celebration Tin Pan South, dedicated a performance of "Go Rest High on That Mountain" to the memory of Earl. Vince told the crowd that losing the legend was like losing his father.

Dierks Bentley also said via Twitter, "Lost one of the pillars of bluegrass music and country music today. Thanks for a lifetime of music to listen to!"

Update: Earl Scruggs' funeral will be open to the public. It will be held on Sunday (April 1) at 2 p.m. at the Ryman Auditorium.

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