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Tribute to Earl Scruggs

Our teachers at the Academy of Bluegrass remember the legacy of bluegrass pioneer and banjo giant Earl Scruggs, who passed away yesterday at age 88. School of Banjo teacher Tony Trischka shares Earl's profound impact on his playing with our students and with NPR. Here's one such quote from NPR's On Point: "Even though I've done my own things and written my own tunes and stretched it in different directions, at the base of it, it's all Earl. I'm always teaching Earl things. His music is so subtle. Even today driving into New York, listening to things from the 50s [I was] picking up on things I had never heard before. 

"The thing about Earl Scruggs style is that you can pick it up almost in one or two lessons. But then you can spend the rest of your life really trying to get it down.... I've been playing for 48 years and I'm still trying to get that sound....It's rare to find one person who defines a whole style of playing...one man who influenced hundreds of thousands--if not millions--of people."  - Tony Trishcka

School of Mandolin teacher Mike Marshall regards Earl as "one of the most creative and inventive musicians of our time. "He redefined our ideas of what the banjo could do and was absolutely fundamental to the creation of this new, modern American art form called 'Bluegrass'. There are not too many people who have left that kind of stamp on our musical world... "I saw him first with the Earl Scruggs Review in 1971 in Lavonia, Georgia. In 1978 I recorded with he, David Grisman, Tony Rice and Darol Anger and that track is now the theme music to the Click and Clack radio show. "I'll never forget how inventive he was during those sessions. Every take was completely different. Both his backup and his soloing. The ideas just never stopped rolling out of his creative musical mind. He was like a child, constantly discovering new ways to look at this simple tune. It changed my idea of him forever. And my idea of 'traditional' music. "Afterwards when I heard people say, 'now son, you've got to pick it just like the original recording... like Earl done it.' I remembered how that recording was simply a snap shot of a moment in time and that if they had used the take from three times back, all those cats would have said that 'that' was the right way to play it. "He was an inventor. An incredible musical force. We love what you have given us Earl. Thank you."  

School of Fiddle teacher Darol Anger expresses: "Wow, Earl. I'm so sorry to see him go. Our last link to one of the most volcanically creative eras in American music, and a fine fellow. Especially sorry for Tony and Bryan, who had personal relationships with him. "Earl made it possible for hundreds of thousands of musicians to copy him, to emulate him and to feel good about it. How does this happen? Because he was a quiet, courteous, kind person who didn't let his ego ever get in the way of his music. "He stood up there, smiled a bit, and played ferocious, playful and startling banjo for decades. He let us all in. A monumental ambassador of good feeling through music. I would put him up there with Casals, Kreisler, and Louis Armstrong."

School of Guitar teacher Bryan Sutton tweets: [[wysiwyg_imageupload:202:]] [[wysiwyg_imageupload:204:]]  

School of Bass teacher Missy Raines remembers Earl's music as "woven into the backdrop of my earliest memories. "As a child, waking up to his banjo playing on my family's stereo became as familiar to me as seeing my mother making breakfast in our kitchen. His music was a part of our lives. I can't remember a time when I didn't know who he was. I was ignited by the drive he seemed to be able to deliver each note individually. "Later, seeing him perform in his son's band, The Earl Scruggs Revue, made a huge impression on me, mostly because it seemed like he was making a statement that he felt music is always in motion and he was up for the journey. He wasn't afraid to step out and do something unexpected and not entirely accepted, all in the spirit of fostering creativity. "That was inspiring to me, even then, as a young kid, to see this great icon step out of his comfort zone."

School of Dobro teacher Andy Hall writes: "Well, what to say. He defined our music, and certainly helped to define the language of all the bluegrass instruments. "I had the pleasure of playing some in his home and his band. To get to sit and play 'Foggy Mountain Rock' and a bunch of classics with Earl in his living room is something I'll never forget.  "All I can say is thanks to the greatest banjo man who ever lived."     [[wysiwyg_imageupload:203:]]   At age four, Earl Scruggs picked up a banjo and never put it down. Earl discovered the three-pick roll and revolutionized the possibilities for multiple instruments and genres by simply delighting in his playing. Who knows what you could do with just the desire to play?    

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