Well, I know that I am a rocker from way back, but don't forget I'm also a boy who was raised in and out of honkey tonks and roadhouses. That's why I'm sad to see that Earl Scruggs has passed away at the ripe old age of 88.
Earl was a banjo picker like Jimi Hendrix was a guitar player. That means that the only similarity betweeen him and anyone else who played the instrument was in name only. He was something the world had never seen before him, a banjo virtuoso.
Earl started out in the late forties with Bill Monroe's band. In the fifties he teamed up with long time partner Lester Flatt. They were able to bring bluegrass from the fringe to become a part of mainstream country music. They wrote and recorded a couple of tunes that just about everyone has heard this one is a classic even though a fellow named Jerry Scoggins actually sang it on the show, I have a cut that features Lester on the lyrics for you though.
The second was featured in the 1968 classic "Bonnie and Clyde" which exposed the hipper elements of youth culture to bluegrass in a way that they could relate to.
Artistic difference ended the partnership with Lester Flatt in 1968 as Earl discovered that a lot of us dirty old hippes were better fans of the music than the Nashville establishment was. He went on to form the Earl Scruggs Revue with a few close friends and his sons. Earl embraced the spirit of country that was hiding in rock and roll and his new outfit opened frequntly for bands like Steppenwolf and the Allman Brothers among many others.
Earl had remained pretty active in touring and recording through the seventies and eighties but some serious health problems got him down in the nineties. He went back to a limited performance schedule in the first years of the 21st century and his last record was released in 2008.
I wanted to include a bit of Earls career with the Revue so here is "Good Morning Sundown"
In 2001 he went onstage with Elton John to cover one of Eltons classics "Country Comfort"
At 88 Earl was a bit on the North side of the boomers but, he connected with them in a way that other country and bluegrass performers didn't . For my coda here I want to include this rarely seen clip of Earl at an anti war protest in 1969.
I just found this incredible bit of film with Earl performing with the Byrds and had to include it.