Earl Scruggs died yesterday. I’m sorry to hear that. There are a lot of people who play in the style that he pioneered, but he always seemed to have a little something extra in his playing, at least, to my ear.
I bought my first banjo in 1979, and laboriously learned to play three or four tunes badly using the books and tapes I bought, including Earl’s book with it’s little floppy record. I never learned to play the instrument beyond reproducing “fret this string here, then pick it” sequences until after I’d attended Pete Wernick’s banjo camp – about two weeks after camp, something just “clicked” and I suddenly knew what I was doing. I still can’t play well, partly because I’ve largely moved from banjo to ukulele, but there’s a qualitative difference in what I do now compared to what I did before.
I’ve been to Pete’s banjo camp twice, and I remember that he would have all of the attendees sign a birthday card for Earl, since the banjo camps took place around his birthday.
I only got to see Earl live one time, which was the last time he performed in Denver. Several people got him to sign their banjos after the concert. I didn’t bring mine, but I did get his signature on my copy of Masters of the Five-String Banjo.
I’ve got several Earl Scruggs LPs and CDs. I need to move them back up to the top of the playlist; maybe it’s time to get inspired to pick up the banjo again.