One of the great banjo players of our time is, sadly, no longer with us. According to reports from Billboard, Earl Scruggs passed away in a Nashville hospital last night. Scruggs was 88 years old.
Scruggs is often credited with popularizing the three-fingered banjo-picking style and introducing bluegrass music to a wider audience. He began his musical career with Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in 1945, but Scruggs was probably best known as the leader of the Foggy Mountain Boys. Formed with guitarist Lester Platt in 1948, the Foggy Mountain Boys became famous to music fans for their instrumental “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” while working their way into the ears of television fans with “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” the theme to The Beverly Hillbillies.
Scruggs was well-respected among the Greenwich Village folk scene: Joan Baez collaborated with Scruggs and performed at a 1973 tribute concert to Scruggs. The concert, which also featured performances by The Byrds and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, was the subject of the 1975 documentary Banjoman.
Cited as an influence by respected banjoists like Bela Fleck, Scruggs was a key figure in the development of modern bluegrass music. He will be missed.