Earl Scruggs: 10 tidbits in honor of his birthday
Happy 87th birthday to Foggy Mountain Boy Earl Scruggs! Scruggs, who along with Lester Flatt formed one of the most influential bluegrass outfits of all time, was born on this day 1924 in the small town of Flint Hill, North Carolina, and by the age of 21 was showcasing his syncopated, three-finger picking in Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, which is where he met his soon-to-be longterm partner, Flatt. Here are ten more things to learn about Earl Scruggs, in honor of his birthday.
1. That's Earl Scruggs you hear picking the banjo in the theme song to the Beverly Hillbillies. The Foggy Mountain Boys took "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" to Number One on the country charts in 1963 (the only other TV theme to chart was Waylon Jennings' theme for The Dukes of Hazzard), and also appeared on the television show.
2. In case you've forgotten the story of a man named Jed.
3. "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," an instrumental released in 1949, has been used in many rural car chase movie sequences, including in Bonnie and Clyde. Parts of the song can also be heard in the Monty Python's Flying Circus "Killer Sheep" sketch. The Soggy Bottom Boys, featured in the Coen Brothers movie O Brother Where Art Thou, are named after - you guessed it - the Foggy Mountain Boys.
4. And in case you've forgotten what a good chase song sounds like, here's "Foggy Mountain Breakdown."
5. In 1955, Scruggs and Flatt became members of the venerable institution that is the Grand Ole Opry. Membership is only offered to country music's most elite performers, can be revoked for extreme drunkenness (ask Hank Williams), is always revoked upon death, and at times has required a strict minimum 26 show-per-year performance schedule on the radio show, recorded then at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
6. Flatt and Scruggs do Dylan.
7. Many of the songs on the Foggy Mountain Boys' albums are credited to "Certain and Stacey," though they were written by Flatt, Scruggs, and other members of the band - Certain and Stacey were the maiden names of their wives.
8. Unlike his partner Flatt, Earl Scruggs has always shown progressive tendencies in his musical style and repertoire, and has performed with Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Elton John, Sting, Steve Martin and Billy Bob Thornton, recorded a song for the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country, and has been seen perhaps for the first time by today's younger audiences after performing at Bonnaroo.
9. Here he is playing with the Byrds in 1969.
10. On September 13, 2006, Scruggs was honored at Turner Field prior to an Atlanta Braves home game, with organizers of the event setting a world record for the most banjo players - 236 - playing one tune together, Scruggs' "Foggy Mountain Breakdown."