We here at Austin City Limits were heartbroken to learn of the death of the great Earl Scruggs on March 28 at the age of 88. The pioneering bluegrass banjo player graced our stage three times, once during Season 2 in 1976 with the Earl Scruggs Revue (a band that included his sons) and twice during Season 25 in 2000 as the distinguished guest of both Marty Stuart and Bela Fleck.
Bill Arhos, co-creator and executive producer emeritus of Austin City Limits, had this to say about the passing of one of our favorite musicians:
I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Earl Scruggs. I listened to him and Lester Flatt as a young boy growing up in East Texas. In the early 70s, we were having a Public Television meeting at the Waldorf Astoria in New York and, during a break, I heard an incredible sound of a band coming from somewhere in the hotel and proceeded to try to track it down. I can only describe the sound as Bluejazz or Jazzgrass. It was a rehearsal in the ballroom but it broke up just as I was approaching it down a hallway, whereupon a man with a really elaborate banjo came walking toward me. I said, “Gee mister, you REALLY can play that thing” and he said, “Thank you, son.” Oh dear.
That night after dinner, the MC came out and said, “Ladies and gentleman, in their first performance as a group, please welcome THE EARL SCRUGGS REVUE.” Foot in mouth, I had told Earl Scruggs he could play a banjo. Then, with the band onstage, including three of his sons, out comes Earl to the front, and a few feet farther and he fell right off the front of the stage and crashed to the floor. His son, Gary, looked down at him and said, “That’s what you call charisma!”
I can hear “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” rolling along in my head.
We here at Austin City Limits believe Earl Scruggs was a musical titan. He will be missed by all of us and by music fans everywhere.