American music — not country music, not bluegrass music, but American music — lost a giant this week in the passing of banjo great Earl Scruggs. His style was as authentic as North Carolina moonshine, and it packed just as much wallop.
The video below gives you a nice peek at the three-fingered picking style that Scruggs made famous, but it also highlights the trait found in almost every song he plays. The man may crack just the barest hint of a smile, but his playing reveals a great sense of humor. He sets up the story beautifully, leading you to think you know what’s coming and then wham, here comes the punchline and he takes you in another direction entirely. It brings a smile to my face every time I hear it.
Rest in peace, Mr. Scruggs, and thank you.
– Jay Bookman