Randy Scruggs – Pick your friends
RS: Isn’t amazing how, when you do all the sudden hear someone new, no matter who has influenced them, just to find that excitement of hearing somebody the first time that adds a little twist on it or…
JD: It’s a different approach to the same thing.
RS: Right. I remember hearing Bruce Hornsby on the radio the first time. It was his first record, I guess.
JD: “The Way It Is”?
RS: Yeah, actually, the song was “Every Little Kiss”. They were playing it here in Nashville, but they weren’t announcing who it was. There was a lyric about Watertown? And my grandparents on my mom’s side are from outside Lebanon [Tennessee], but there’s a small town there called Watertown, so I thought it was a local artist.
RS: So I was going into record stores looking in all the local bins for a song about Watertown, Tennessee, or something. But there was something that came through on the radio, I mean, even on the small speakers.
JD: My wife, Jill, turned me onto that record.
RS: He came in and played on that Circle record as well.
JD: I was at a Christmas party a couple years ago at Sam Bush’s house, with Bela Fleck and a bunch of our good buddies, and Bruce was coming into town — he may have been working with you…
RS: Yeah, that was the very beginning of this album.
JD: Ahh! Well he came in, and we were all jamming in this living room in Sam’s house, a whole bunch of us. Sam’s wife, Gwen, takes piano lessons, and she has this nice old upright piano in the corner. Bruce just kinda walked in unannounced, just walked through the front door and went straight to the piano and started beating the hell out of whatever song it was we were playing. (laughter) We were playing “Black Mountain Ride” or something like that, and he just burned it.
RS: Have you ever seen his hands? They’re large.
JD: Really big hands.
RS: So he has a certain stretch on piano; I think his style probably has something to do with it.
JD: O’Connor’s left hand is like that, from reaching. His little finger on his left hand is longer than the one on his right hand, from stretching. This guy’s a freak.
RS: Wow. (laughs) I first started playing autoharp, and then guitar shortly after that, but then I had to pick up a banjo just to see if I could start playing it. I started wearing those metal fingerpicks, like dad used, and those hurt. But I think I put ’em on too tight. Literally, my fingers are deformed now.
JD: Oh, yeah, I’ve got it; fingerpicks just do it to you. My fingers look different, they’re twisted around. When did you start playing with your dad?
RS: Well, I first started playing an instrument when I was six, and that was through the influence of the Carter Family.
JD: Well, they were hanging out at your house, too, so…
RS: Right. Maybelle would come over; she actually left an autoharp at one point, I started playing that one. Actually, Maybelle and dad and her husband and my mom, of all things, they would go bowling together. Can you imagine that? (laughter)
JD: (laughing) I would love to have been a fly on the wall.
RS: Melrose Bowling Alley, looking over, and there’s Maybelle Carter and Earl Scruggs. What is wrong with this picture?
JD: They go bowling, leave the kids at home.
RS: So when people ask me about memories of the Carter Family and Flatt & Scruggs and all that, it’s all family, friends. And I always loved the music, but I thought it was just a family thing, and some friends. Playing music was just a part of that, you know. When I was nine I started guesting on the Flatt & Scruggs TV show, a local show here [in Nashville] on Channel 4. Everything from playing a featured number to, at Christmastime they’d have a Christmas show and we’d all come in and open presents. (laughs)
JD: (laughing) Hey, that was real. I was watching that.