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Earl Scruggs – A Bluegrass Legend

Earl Scruggs was a legendary bluegrass and country musician. He is most famous for the three-finger banjo style that he popularized in the early 1950s. In 2015, he became of one of five members inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, alongside Loretta Lynn and Bill Monroe with whom he played and recorded with.

At the time of his retirement in 1972 at the age of 58, Scruggs was one of the most-recorded artists in all of music. He had recorded more than 200 songs for Columbia Records alone. For example, he had about fifty recorded with Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys on his own, including four number one hits.


Earl Scruggs was born on a farm near Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1924. He started learning guitar when he was two years old and by the time he reached 17, Earl Scruggs had mastered the three-finger banjo style that would make him famous.

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Earl Scruggs is also considered one of the best two-finger pickers, along with Merle Travis. His distinctive style of guitar playing has made him a pioneer in the style known as bluegrass. Scruggs is also noted for his uniquely melodic and virtuosic style, which blended together a country, pop, jazz and classical influence.

Earl Scruggs also played slide guitar, mandolin and fiddle on many of his recordings. He was also famous for his singing talent – he sang basslines on some of his instrumentals.

Music Career

Earl Scruggs has been a pioneer in the style known as bluegrass. He played banjo and guitar with a modified three-finger picking style which was popularized by his friend and mentor Lester Flatt.

Three-finger picking style is a banjo-playing technique devised by Earl Scruggs which involves the use of three fingers.

It is often used in bluegrass music. The picking hand stays on, or near the banjo strings most of the time for this three finger technique, with one finger plucking up strings, another plucking down strings and a third plucking either up or down strings alternately to create an “up-and-down” pattern. This enables the player to perform rapid rolls with fewer moving parts than other techniques.

Earl Scruggs became widely known after he joined Flatt’s band, The Foggy Mountain Boys, in the late 1940s. In 1949, because of their popularity on Grand Ole Opry radio broadcasts, they changed their name to “The Foggy Mountain Banjo Band”.

While playing in this band, he was invited to join David and Charlie Monroe’s bluegrass group. While staying with the Monroes in 1953, Scruggs recorded his first professional recording “Sing Me Back Home” with no promoter or record label backing him. This was followed by “No News Blues” and “Scruggs’ Boogie”, which all became blues classics. This caused record company executives to take notice of him. He soon signed with Mercury Records, who released several of his albums through the 1960s.

What Is Bluegrass Music

Bluegrass music is a genre of American roots music that developed in the Appalachian region of the United States. Bluegrass usually consists of a lead fiddle, two acoustic guitarists, one or more bass players, and a rhythm section comprising drums and percussion instruments such as banjo or mandolin.

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It is strongly associated with traditional country music and instrumentally related to old-time music. It occasionally features other instruments such as the accordion or saxophone (in jazz versions) and sometimes features both an upright bass player playing banjo notes on the bottom string with a guitar player chords on top. It has also been influential to American vernacular forms like blues, rockabilly, blues rock, bluegrass gospel and jug bands such as the Stanley Brothers.It is also often played in dance bands featuring electric instruments, electric bass, and drums.

Earl Scruggs: The Inspiration

A teacher at the Fisk University School of Music in Nashville Tennessee introduced Earl’s musical talent to string player Bill Monroe. Monroe became Scruggs’ mentor and inspiration from that point on.

Earl Scruggs, a Fisk University school of music mentor, introduced Earl’s musical talent to string player Bill Monroe. Earl has since been inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and in 2000 was recognized with the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton.

Earl Scruggs has been heralded for his achievements in the field of bluegrass music. His work not only inspired listeners of his music but generations of bluegrass pickers who have learned and been inspired by his unique Scruggs style picking. Let us know your thought son some of your favorite songs by Scruggs below.