Show of hands – how many here can sing “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” from memory? Sigh – fewer of us than there used to be! That was only one of the marvelous songs that banjo virtuoso, Earl Scruggs left us, though as the theme for The Beverly Hillbillies, it may be his best known piece.
Earl died Wednesday, at 88, of natural causes. An Associated Press memorial says:
It may be impossible to overstate the importance of bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs to American music. A pioneering banjo player who helped create modern country music, his sound is instantly recognizable and as intrinsically wrapped in the tapestry of the genre as Johnny Cash’s baritone or Hank Williams’ heartbreak…The legacy he helped build with bandleader Bill Monroe, guitarist Lester Flatt and the rest of the Blue Grass Boys was evident all around Nashville, where he died in an area hospital. His string-bending, mind-blowing way of picking helped transform a regional sound into a national passion.
As an added bonus, at the bottom of this article, you can see a clip of Lester and Earl on a Hillbillies episode, singing a fun version of a great American folk song, “The Wreck of the Old 97.” You get to hear Miss Jane sing a verse, and watch Jed dance!