Earl Scruggs, banjo legend, has died

Earl Scruggs, who forever changed the sound of country music with his inventive three-finger roll, died yesterday morning.

Scruggs turned to the banjo as a four-year-old toddler to console himself when his father died. He spent years perfecting his unique picking style until he debuted it at the Grand Ole Opry in 1945, performing with Bill Monroe. The response, both at the Opry and in countless living rooms where listeners were glued to their radios, was immediate, explosive, and sustained.

Guitarist Lester Flatt was also part of that history-shaping performance and he and Scruggs entered into a musical partnership that lasted until 1969. They stayed with Bill Monroe until 1948 at which time they formed the Foggy Mountain Boys. Their two signature songs, Foggy Mountain Breakdown and the theme song for the sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, The Ballad of Jed Clampett, are forever tied to Flatt and Scruggs who split in 1969 when their musical interests took them in different directions.

Mr. Scruggs, who was 88, died of natural causes at a Nashville, TN hospital.