Picker With A Rock Ticker|
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS as seen in The Orlando Sentinel
August 29, 2001
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When Earl Scruggs waxes about the old
days, he doesn't dwell on his role in inventing bluegrass with Bill Monroe
or his long, successful partnership with Lester Flatt.
his spacious contemporary home -- a former residence of George Jones and
Tammy Wynette -- the 77-year-old Scruggs weaves tales from his days in the
1970s as patriarch of "The Earl Scruggs Revue." The country-rock outfit
was popular on college campuses but is generally considered a footnote in
Three of his sons -- Randy, Gary and Steve --
played in the band.
The hybrid music of "The Earl Scruggs Revue"
wasn't completely embraced by traditional bluegrass or country factions --
and rarely got airplay -- but it's a source of great pride for
The group played on bills with rock acts such as
Steppenwolf and folkies such as James Taylor. Often, they played festivals
before 40,000 people.
"To me, it was the most exciting thing that
I've ever done," he said. "At my age, playing with my own kids and the
energy they had. I hadn't played with that kind of energy before in my
His new CD, Earl Scruggs and Friends, is his first album in
a decade. It's an extension of "The Earl Scruggs Revue." Over 12 songs, he
collaborates with an impressive stable of admirers.
Dwight Yoakam, Travis Tritt, Sting, Melissa Etheridge, Leon Russell, Vince
Gill, Rosanne Cash, John Fogerty, Don Henley, Johnny Cash and actor Steve
Martin (on banjo) are there. Randy Scruggs produced the album; Gary
Scruggs performs. Steve Scruggs died in 1992.
Except for "Foggy
Mountain Breakdown," the album is contemporary rock and country. Scruggs
is more interested in seeing how his banjo fits into a Sting song than
"He's not interested in re-creating something he's
done," Randy Scruggs said. "It's about saying that at this moment, this is
what I feel like doing."
Scruggs has always been an
Born in Flint Hill, N.C., he took up the banjo as a
child and forged his own style by his teen years. When Scruggs joined
Flatt in Monroe's band in 1945, the group -- with fiddler Chubby Wise and
bassist Cedric Rainwater -- was so potent it fueled imitators and launched
The pair broke from Monroe in 1948 to form Flatt &
Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys.
Flatt and Scruggs broke up in
1969. Flatt died in 1979. Scruggs went into country-rock with his sons.
They stopped touring in 1980.
In 1996, Scruggs suffered a heart
During the recuperation, Scruggs' sons talked about another
album. "We asked, 'What can we do that dad would enjoy?' Randy Scruggs
"And dad has always loved collaborating and playing with
other artists and musicians."
It wasn't difficult to nab the
"Getting to play 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown'...was
such a thrill," said David Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer. "It was like
getting to meet Beethoven and jamming with himon 'The Fifth.'
Scruggs says: "I don't know what sets it off, but I just get
wanting to pick once in a while."
Copyright © 2001, The Associated Press