Earl Scruggs, the pioneering banjo player and bluegrass legend, died Wednesday morning. He was 88 years old.
Scruggs' three-finger style revolutionized the banjo and in the process bluegrass music and country music, too.
The Independent reached musician Dirk Powell, who is on tour with Joan Baez in the U.K., via email for comment on Scruggs. Powell, accomplished player of many instruments including accordion, fiddle and banjo - the last two of which he learned from his grandfather in Kentucky.
"Earl Scruggs influenced the direction of banjo playing in a way that few musicians have achieved on any instrument. He took 3-finger patterns he heard growing up in North Carolina and solidified their natural syncopation in an intensely driving way that gave Bluegrass music it's most definitive sound," Powell writes. "The style he developed became the primary style of the instrument -- it is called, simply, Scruggs Style.
"My favorite story of him is how, when still a child, he and his brother would check their timing by playing together in front of the barn, then walking around opposite sides to the back and seeing how in time they still were when they met up on the far side," writes Powell. "They did this repeatedly until their timing was solid and unshakeable - like a homegrown version of a metronome. It's no surprise that his timing propelled and defined an entire genre of music."
According to the Associated Press, Scruggs was an innovator who pioneered modern banjo sound. His use of three fingers rather than the clawhammer style elevated the banjo from a part of the rhythm section — or a comedian's prop — to a lead instrument.
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