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RIP: Earl Scruggs, Bluegrass Titan, Dead At 88

LOS ANGELES TIMES: For better or worse, Earl Scruggs [pictured, above right] will be remembered by most Americans for his banjo picking alongside partner Lester Flatt in a dated 1960s cultural artifact: “The Beverly Hillbillies.” For better, because the style that the bluegrass legend, who died Wednesday at 88, showcases will forever live in the memories of generations. For worse, because the song threatens to define Flatt and Scruggs, as well as the whole of the uniquely American form of bluegrass music, alongside the zany, know-nothing Clampetts of Beverly Hills. That placement has helped define bluegrass to the culture at large as music for hicks who dance at hoedowns and wouldn’t know a lick about “real” music. (Credit goes to “Deliverance” and “Dueling Banjos” for furthering the cause.) That’s a shame, because a deep listen to Flatt & Scruggs reveals something so much bigger than a few unfortunate stereotypes. The sound that Scruggs forged, a three-fingered picking style in the 1940s as a central player in Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, came to define bluegrass. When he and Flatt struck out on their own in 1948 to form the Foggy Mountain Boys, the style had woven its way into the fabric of American music. MORE

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