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Earl Scruggs is a bluegrass musician who pioneered the Scruggs Style, a method of banjo playing.
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Then, in 1944, the great bandleader Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass, invited Scruggs to play with his famous Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. For the next four years, Scruggs performed with Monroe on the Grand Ole Opry, the famous country radio show broadcast live from Nashville, as well as on several nationwide tours.
In addition to Scruggs, Monroe's Blue Grass Boys also included a talented young guitarist named Lester Flatts, with whom Scruggs became fast friends. In 1948,
ready to step out of Monroe's shadow and make names for themselves, Flatt and Scruggs left the Blue Grass Boys to form their own band.
Named the Foggy Mountain Boys, but also frequently referred to simply as Flatt and Scruggs (or, alternatively, Flatt & Scruggs & The Foggy Mountain Boys), the band landed its first gig on a popular Bristol, Virginia radio show called Farm and Fun Time. After gaining exposure through radio airplay and ceaseless touring, by 1953 Flatt and Scruggs returned to Grand Ole Opry as headliners alongside the likes of country music greats such as Chet Atkins and Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters.
One of the first songs the band recorded in 1949, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," while not especially popular upon its release, would eventually become a bluegrass classic after it was featured in the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde. The Foggy Mountain Boys signed with Columbia Records in 1951 and their first single for the label, 1952's "'Tis Sweet to Be Remembered," became a major country hit. However, the band would not score another big smash until the 1959 song "Cabin in the Hills." Propelled by its success, The Foggy Mountain Boys churned out a slew of 1960s bluegrass hits, including "Go Home" (1961), "Pearl, Pearl, Pearl" (1962), "You are My Flower" (1964), "I Still Miss Someone" (1965) and a new recording of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" (1968). However, by far their most popular song was "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" — the theme song of The Beverly Hillbillies — recorded in 1962, which topped the country music charts for several weeks and even reached No. 44 on the pop charts.
Citing creative differences, Flatt and Scruggs split ways in 1969.
Scruggs had married his wife, Louise Certain Scruggs, in 1948, and they had three sons: Randy, Gary and Steve, all musicians. In 1970, Earl Scruggs and his three sons formed a new band called the Earl Scruggs Revue. Inspired by the youthful tastes of his children, Scruggs sought to move beyond traditional bluegrass and use the banjo — often an electrified banjo — to achieve a more modern, rock and roll sound. "I saw where the banjo was more versatile than just straight bluegrass," Scruggs said. "And it sounded so good to me until I just couldn't get it off my mind." After focusing on touring and performing during the early 1970s, in 1974 the family band recorded the soundtrack for the movie Where the Lilies Bloom. In 1975, with the support of such superstars as Johnny Cash and Billy Joel, Scruggs recorded the Earl Scruggs Revue Anniversary Album Volume I, following with Volume II the next year.
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The "high, lonesome" style that defines the bluegrass sound comes from the experiences of the music's original composers, the Scots-Irish immigrants of Appalachia. Early bluegrass musician Lester Flatt brought the sound of the genre into the popular lexicon in 1948, when he helped found The Foggy Mountain Boys. He was joined by fellow musician Earl Scruggs, who expertly picked his banjo in the three-finger style that is carried on in the music of bluegrass great Ricky Skaggs. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Alison Krauss snagged more than 26 Grammy awards for putting a contemporary twist on the music of her bluegrass predecessors—proof that the genre still resonantes with listeners.
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