Earl honored with hometown highway sign

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Posted by Geoff Haynes on December 03, 19102 at 16:33:23:

The AP wire is full of Earl news today.

SHELBY, N.C. (AP) _ Three famous fingers earned Earl Scruggs his own highway sign Tuesday.
Scruggs, the banjo master whose three-fingered approach to playing the instrument is credited by many with giving bluegrass music its distinctive sound, was honored at a ceremony unveiling a modified version of the sign that welcomes visitors entering Shelby on westbound U.S. 74.
"Welcome to Shelby ... Home of Earl Scruggs," the sign now reads.
Scruggs, 78, did not perform at the ceremony, but in an interview from his home in Nashville, Tenn., late last week, he said, "I do feel highly honored to get something like that."
With Lester Flatt, Scruggs created two of the best-known pieces of bluegrass music, the theme from "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," used in the film "Bonnie and Clyde."
A 1995 inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Scruggs grew up in Cleveland County, on a farm near Boiling Springs. He later moved to Shelby, where he was a textile worker at the Lily Mill in the early 1940s.
He had begun playing the banjo at 4, in the traditional picking style, using two fingers on the instrument's five strings. At 10, he locked himself in a room and developed his three-fingered method after an argument with older brother Horace. "It came to me like a dream," Scruggs recalled.
The three-finger roll gave Scruggs greater freedom to create sounds on the banjo, and he refined the method while playing with Horace and his eldest brother, Junie.
By the mid-1940s, Scruggs was well known locally and got an offer from John Miller, who enticed Scruggs to move to Knoxville, Tenn., where he played in Miller's band and on a radio show.
Later, Bill Monroe, who is credited with developing and popularizing bluegrass music, hired Scruggs to play in his Blue Grass Boys. Scruggs and his distinctive banjo playing were a hit with audiences who saw the band perform at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry.
Worn out by life on the road with Monroe's band, Scruggs and Flatt, another band member, struck out on their own in 1948.
Flatt sang and played guitar, while Scruggs picked the banjo, and the act was a hit. By the time of their 1969 breakup, the duo had played at Carnegie Hall, scored a No. 1 hit with "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" and won a Grammy for "Foggy Mountain Breakdown."
Scruggs earned a second Grammy for "Foggy Mountain," which is perhaps the most famous instrumental in bluegrass, with a recording that appeared on his 2001 album, "Earl Scruggs and Friends."
Scruggs is working with his manager and wife of more than 50 years, Louise, on a public television special in which he will play with Ricky Skaggs, Doc Watson and Alison Krauss.
He has been plagued over the years by back and hip problems, and suffered a heart attack in 1996. The tragedy of the 1992 suicide of Scruggs' youngest son, Randy, left Scruggs unable to pick up a banjo for months.
Eventually, however, the instrument called, and Scruggs began work on "Earl Scruggs and Friends," which became his first new recording in 17 years.
"I just can't live in a depressed world too long," Scruggs said. "To get out of that, I just have to get the banjo and start playing."
Skaggs, Vince Gill and Travis Tritt still come to Scruggs' home for regular "picking parties." And Scruggs learned recently he will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame early next year.
He said that even if he didn't make a penny from it, he still would play the banjo.
"Oh, God, yeah," he said. "It's like an addiction."

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