What Scruggs had done was to begin playing a five-string banjo with three fingers. His thumb, middle, and index fingers were all picking, creating two strands of harmony to buttress the melody. In a sense, he could function as a trio all by himself. Because he alternated three fingers, Scruggs could play one note after another in rapid succession, giving the impression that he was playing his banjo at terrific speed. Later, when he joined Bill Monroe’s band, Scruggs was introduced as ‘the boy who can make a banjo talk.'”
–Nicholas Dawidoff, In The Country Of Country, 1997, p. 115
Sit down, shut up, and learn something. This is a 90-minute documentary on Earl Scruggs from 1972. Make no mistake, we’ve lost a giant in post-World War II American music, a man who introduced the badass solo to country and mountain music.
Earl Scruggs – The Bluegrass Legend – Family & Friends (1972)
0:00 – Bob Dylan, “East Virginia Blues” and “Nashville Skyline Rag.”
5:28 – Doc Watson, “John Hardy,” “Home Sweet Home,” and
15:37 – Origin of “Flint Hill Special.”
25:13 – Earl Scruggs: “I just didn’t wanna stay with ‘Cumberland Gap’ or ‘Cripple Creek’ over and over and over and over again.”
28:03 – “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” with Clarence White and The Byrds.
31:40 – Early Moog synthesizer and discussion of electronic music taking over acoustic instruments. And then a duet, of sorts
38:22 – Earl Scruggs explaining why he’s playing an anti-Vietnam War benefit. How unpopular does a war have to be when the banjo player in his mid-’40s is protesting it???
43:18 – Ron Swanson explains “overdubbing.”
44:15 – Ron Swanson explains “sweetening.”
50:10: “Prior to Earl Scruggs, the banjo was a rhythm instrument, it was an instrument of the clowns. But Earl made it a versatile instrument with his new style of three-finger (playing), a true instrument of music, instead of just a rhythm instrument.”
51:09 – Earl Scruggs puts on a banjo clinic. If you watch nothing else, watch this.
59:05 – Pulling up to the Ryman Auditorium (Grand Ole Opry House).
59:24 – Bill Monroe, “Little Maggie” and “Nine Pound Hammer.”
1:01:36 – Mmmm … Goo Goo Clusters.
1:04:46 – Good exchange between Gary and Earl, who brings us back home by way of banjo.
1:07:00 – Joan Baez, “My Home’s Across The Blue Ridge Mountains.” Look, I wanna make fun of Joan Baez as much as the next guy, but this is badass. Maybe no Dolly Parton, but very impressive.
1:11:35 – Joan Baez and Earl Scruggs, “Love Is Just A Four Letter Word.”
1:16:34 – Joan Baez (with baby) & Randy Scruggs, “It Ain’t Me Babe.” It’s safe to say that any woman watching this will immediately begin ovulating. Men, you’ve been warned.
1:18:40 – Joan Baez (with baby) & Randy Scruggs, “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.” Honestly, I want to go back into a time machine and propose to Joan Baez. It’s not just me, is it?
1:23:46 – Earl Scruggs: “What I would like to do is to keep up with the times and make as much progress with the banjo, along with the other instruments, as long as it blends in.”