Earl Scruggs and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Foggy Mountain Breakdown
Earl Scruggs died on Wednesday, but I only found out about it yesterday. Sad. Earl Scruggs was the greatest banjo player in history, and he single-handedly invented the three-finger style of banjo playing we associate with the instrument today. (Pretty much every good banjo player you’ve ever heard is playing “Scruggs style.”) He joined Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys (the band that literally coined the term “bluegrass”) in 1945 — sixty years later, he was still touring well into his late eighties. Quite a musician.
Above is my favorite recording of his most famous tune, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, from the album Will The Circle Be Unbroken, an epic jam session which I think has to take the prize for the greatest country music album ever recorded. The precision and musicality that Scruggs maintains while playing at such a high speed is amazing.
Here’s a good piece that Steve Martin wrote about Scruggs in the New Yorker a few months ago if you’re interested in more information about the man. He also recorded a wonderful concert film called The Three Pickers with Ricky Skaggs and Doc Watson, another titan of American folk / country music who’s still performing well into his 80s.
So long and thanks, Earl.
Also a good occasion to revisit this wonderful tune.