Earl Scruggs Tribute Radio
I can still remember the first time I heard Earl Scruggs. Growing up in Southern California in the 50’s, I didn’t have much exposure to the kind of country music that people heard in the east or south. When I first heard Earl’s banjo on an LP that my father purchased at a local record shop (“Foggy Mountain Jamboree” by Flatt and Scruggs) I was captivated by that sound, especially the instrumental cuts. Quite honestly I wasn’t too impressed with the singing on that record or the fiddle playing which seemed too rural for me, but the sound of that banjo (was that what it was?) really caught my ear. It was different and very exciting.
Fast forward to 1964 and I finally got to see a three-finger “Scruggs-style” banjo player in person. It was Doug Dillard who with his band the Dillards appeared on the Andy Griffith TV show and were playing folk music venues around SoCal. He made it look so easy which compelled me as a college student to buy a banjo and give it a try. I wanted to play just like Doug.
That meant, of course, that I had to learn how to play just like Earl since that’s who Doug Dillard learned from as did just about everybody else at that time. I started listening to my father’s Flatt and Scruggs records again and purchased a few of my own. Back in those days, you had to slow those LP’s down to figure out just what Earl was doing. I bought an old Harmony banjo (made out of plastic) and went to work on it. I’ve been working on it every since. Earl set the bar very high and quite frankly there are few banjo players who have been able to accomplish what he did on the 5-string banjo.
Earl Scruggs died recently at the age of 88. Although his right hand slowed a bit with age, he continued to amaze audiences well into his eighties. I saw him perform many times over the years, most recently at the 2010 IBMA awards show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville when his wife Louise was posthumously inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.
I can only say that it has been a joy for me to play and introduce people to the incredible music of Earl Scruggs both as a musician and as a radio programmer. With my old band Brush Arbor, I twice got to perform at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville with the Earl Scruggs Revue and for the past 36 years I have hosted a weekend bluegrass music show on San Diego’s top-rated country music station KSON-FM. It has also been my pleasure and a great honor to program an Earl Scruggs tribute station for Slacker Radio.
My goal in programming Slacker’s Earl Scruggs Tribute station has been to feature as many of Earl’s classic recordings as possible, including those early sides with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys and his later work with Flatt and Scruggs, the Earl Scruggs Revue and his appearances with guest artists. I have also included on the station playlist just a few of the thousands of musicians who were directly influenced by Earl. They range from bluegrass artists like the Osborne Brothers and Steve Martin to genre-bending bands like Mumford and Sons and Trampled by Turtles. You’ll hear a lot of banjo picking on this station, as well as some of the Earl’s under-rated but very important guitar work. Let me know if there’s something in particular that you would like to hear. I’ll do my best to get it on there for you, so long as it honors and pays tribute to the greatest banjo player in the history of the world, Earl Eugene Scruggs.
To take a listen click this link: http://www.slacker.com/station/earl-scruggs-tribute
Wayne Rice picking a Banjo