Earl Scruggs: Earl’s Breakdown

Alright, I know it’s not guitar but I just had A BANJO RELAPS!

For those of you that don’t know, Earl Scruggs is perhaps as much responsible for the sound of Bluegrass Music as the Father of Bluegrass himself, Bill Monroe.

And most people think that Bluegrass Music is oldtime and ancient.

Well, not so… 1945

Just a little older than Rock & Roll!

My longtime friend Phil Wells who is a country music historian, once said that if Monroe is the “father of bluegrass,” than Earl should be the “mother.” Because it was Flatt and Scruggs joining Monroe that turned Monroe’s old timey sound into this newer music form. Wells told me that he heard one of the first broadcasts of Bluegrass Breakdown from WWVA one day while out working the fields. He said he nearly rolled the tractor ¬†over when that super high speed banjo came on the air. Never heard anything like that before!

Now sure, there’s been a lot of innovation on the 5 string banjo since, players like Tony Trischka, Bela Fleck, Bobby Thompson, Bill Keith to name a few, have all had impacts on the way the instrument is played. But make no mistake- to this day, there really hasn’t been anything quite like Earl …. and there’s something to be said about being the inventor of what we call standard bluegrass banjo licks and rolls. Technically speaking, what Earl did on the banjo is perhaps more innovative than what Paganini did for the violin.

So when you listen to this video of Earl (even with the slight meltdown on his second break), this is what every banjo player has strived for, or should be striving for. Just ask any accomplished player and they should say the same thing… Earl, Earl, EARL EARL!!!