Earl Scruggs, banjo legend, dead at 88

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Earl Scruggs in July 2010 (AP Photo/Josh Anderson/file)

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bluegrass legend and banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs, who helped profoundly change country music with Bill Monroe and later with guitarist Lester Flatt, has died. He was 88.

Scruggs’ son Gary said his father died of natural causes Wednesday morning at a Nashville, Tenn., hospital.

Earl Scruggs was an innovator who pioneered modern banjo sound. His use of three fingers rather than the clawhammer style elevated the banjo from a part of the rhythm section — or a comedian’s prop — to a lead instrument.

His string-bending and lead runs became known worldwide as “the Scruggs picking style,” and the versatility it allowed has helped popularize the banjo in almost every genre of music.

The debut of Bill Monroe and The Blue Grass Boys during a post-World War II performance on The Grand Ole Opry is thought of as the “big bang” moment for bluegrass and later 20th century country music.

Gary Scruggs says funeral plans are incomplete.

Scruggs, born Jan. 6, 1924, in Flint Hill, N.C., learned to play banjo at age 4. He appeared at age 11 on a radio talent scout show. By age 15, he was playing in bluegrass bands.

Source: Associated Press

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