When your surname is attached to the dominant technique used on your instrument, you know you've made a monumental impact. But the "Scruggs style" of banjo playing popularized by Earl Scruggs—who passed away on March 28 at the age of 88—wasn't the bluegrass giant's only achievement. As a key member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, Scruggs had a major role in defining not only the way the banjo would be played forever after, but the very sound of bluegrass itself. North Carolina-born Scruggs was only 21 when he joined Monroe's band, but he already had a fully-formed musical vision in his mind and fingers.
In 1948, before the paint was dry on his initial innovations, Scruggs left the Blue Grass Boys along with guitarist Lester Flatt. Together they formed the Foggy Mountain Boys, which would eventually be known as Flatt & Scruggs. The duo did as much as anyone—including Monroe—to bring bluegrass to the wider world, even hosting their own TV show in the '50s. Scruggs was always an adventurer at heart, given to matching musical wits with everyone from R&B sax titan King Curtis to Indian sitar superstar Ravi Shankar, and his stylistic conflicts with old-schooler Flatt led to the twosome's split in 1969. From then until his death, Scruggs continued on with his own band, pursuing his muse wherever it led. There aren't many musicians who've earned both a membership in the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and a star on Hollywood Blvd., but such is the widespread mark Scruggs made on the world. – Jim Allen, Google Play