Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Earl Scruggs

Earl Scruggs died today at 88.   When I first started to play the five string he was one of my most important influences.  My first banjo supposedly had been one used by Uncle Dave Macon (who was a frailer) but Scruggs and Lester Flatt (who met each other in the Bill Monroe band in 1946) were a key influence in commercially accessible bluegrass.  Their style was clean.

Scruggs experimented with his music.   He developed his three finger style playing Ruben when he was very young.   Lester Flatt sang lead and Uncle Josh Graves played a very distinctive dobro.   They played together for a number of years as the Foggy Mountain Boys but broke up when Scruggs began to experiment with electrified music.    This video is of Scruggs doing some explanation of his technique.   Like Mike Seeger, who played old time music, Scruggs was a musician first.

The second video is of Earl's Breakdown, which uses something called Scruggs Tuners.  5 string players have a lot of different tunings.  Scruggs invented some cam based tuners that would retune the middle two strings in a precise manner.   Bill Keith perfected the engineering for these devices.   For a long while I had a set of Scruggs then Keith Tuners on my Ode Banjo.

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