Earl Scruggs

bluegrass banjo player, Madison
National Heritage Fellowship (1989)
Governor’s Award in the Arts (1994)

Born in Shelby, North Carolina, Earl Scruggs (1924 – 2012) took up a new regional style of three-finger banjo picking and made it his own. As a young professional in Bill Monroe’s band in 1946, he defined banjo playing in what was soon known as bluegrass, and over a long career became one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century. In 1948 he began a partnership with Lester Flatt, another member of Monroe’s pivotal band, as Flatt & Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys, and they joined the Grand Ole Opry and adopted Nashville as their base of operations in 1955. They were arguably the most popular representatives of the bluegrass style in country music circles and, thanks to the folk music revival, among new audiences through the 1960s. After the group disbanded in 1969, he played with his sons in the Earl Scruggs Review for a number of years. For his role in revolutionizing traditional music, Scruggs has since enjoyed decades as one of America’s most acclaimed musical celebrities.

More Information

  • Godbey, Marty, “The Artistry and Accomplishments of Earl Scruggs,” Bluegrass Unlimited 31, #2 (Aug 1996): 56-63.
  • Goldsmith, Tommy, “Banjo Man – Musical Journey of Earl Scruggs,” Bluegrass Unlimited 39, #10 (Apr 2005): 15.
  • Govenar, Alan, Masters of Traditional Arts: A Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2001), pp. 549-50, 733.
  • Irwin, John Rice. A People and Their Music: The Story Behind the Story of Country Music (Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Co., 2000), pp. 179-95.
  • Kingsbury, Paul, ed. The Encyclopedia of Country Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 474.
  • Rosenberg, Neil V., Bluegrass: A History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), pp. 68-91.
  • Wernick, Pete, “Earl Eugene Scruggs (January 6, 1924-March 28, 2012),” Bluegrass Unlimited 46, #11 (May 2012): 22-34.
  • Willis, Barry R., America’s Music: Bluegrass (Franktown, CO: Pine Valley Music, 1992), pp. 178-89.