Earl Scruggs (1924-2012)

No other picker could even come close:


Scruggs was something else.

Adrienne Rich also just died. I will put up an obituary post sometime tomorrow for her. If any of you literary or feminazi types have favorite pieces of hers you want me to highlight, LMK at sanfranlefty [at] stinque [dot] com. I’ll be looking for some of my Feminist Theory books to dig out of the boxes in the basement.

As readers of my FB posts know, I consider bluegrass to be the speed metal of country music. Check out ol’ Grandpa Jones, who went on to star on Hee Haw (hell yeah, I watched it growing up).


Remember Flatt and Scruggs used to show up on The Beverly Hillbillies?

Stringbean, who was on HeeHaw with Grandpa Jones, could play pretty well also:

@redmanlaw: I was fortunate to see Earl Scruggs, Doc and Merle, Emmy Lou Harris and Bonnie Raitt all at the same outdoor folk festival in Pennsyltucky when I was only 16.

Which explains how I came to the Dead after hearing “Old and in the Way” and not the other way around.

When we do get credit for something cool, it gets co-opted, and we get mocked. The picture at the bottom of the page is soooo awesome. (Emphasis mine.)


To Americans of European descent, the banjo was a creation of the Africans. The instrument was an oddity and was denied respectability. It was, in fact, a musical outcast, lowlier than the fiddle which many “righteous people” knew was from the devil. According to a 1969 article in “The Iron Worker”, a trade publication of the Lynchburg Foundry Co. of Lynchburg, VA, a young man named Joel Walker Sweeney, of Appomattox Court House, VA, learned to play a four- string gourd banjo at age 13, from the black men working on his father’s farm [You mean “SLAVES”?]. He also learned to play the fiddle, sing, dance, and imitate animal sounds. Until this time, all performances on the banjo seem to have been from black players. Joel started traveling through central Virginia in the early 1830’s, playing his five-string banjo, singing, reciting, and imitating animals during county court sessions. At this time he also started blackening his face with the ash of burnt cork as was popular for performers to do. As he played his homemade banjo, which was probably made of a gourd, his popularity and fame grew, so he enlarged his territory, playing in halls, taverns, schools and churches. These performances seem to be the first time that the banjo had been performed in a show, and the novelty of his act charmed both Negro and white spectators. He soon became a star in a circus which toured Virginia and North Carolina for several years. He eventually performed on his banjo in New York City, and even toured England, Scotland, and Ireland performing for Queen Victoria in 1843. Sweeney’s introduction of the 5-string banjo to England led to the rise in popularity of the banjo there which has continued to the present.

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