EARL SCRUGGS: BANJO ICON—GORDON CASTELNERO AND DAVID L. RUSSELL
Rowman & Littlefield 9781442268654. Hardback, 258 pp., Forward by Bela Fleck, $40.
This is an insightful tribute to the man who put the banjo in bluegrass. Taken from many oral histories or first-hand accounts of folks who knew Scruggs, we get a rather detailed look into his life from the time he was a child right up to the time of his death. With a foreword by Bela Fleck setting the stage, we hear from a who’s who of modern banjo players of all ages. The authors have even extrapolated the influence that Scruggs had upon succeeding generations by including interviews with so many young players who felt his influence first-hand and through his many recordings and appearances.
Jim Mills and Gary Scruggs provided a wealth of the information here. A list of the other people cited in telling this story reads like a down-home biography provided by a who’s who of bluegrass history. There are excerpts of Earl’s own words from radio shows like Fresh Air and other interviews thrown in for added insights. As a special treat for banjo players, the authors often get into bits of banjo tech-talk about licks that Scruggs played and how he used them, along with some rather detailed attention to the different banjos he used and when he used them over the years. There are detailed notes at the end of the book and a nice spread of pictures of Lester Flatt and Earl through the years, as well as the Scruggs family, too. This includes Earl’s brothers as well some of the many folks that were part of his professional life in music and on television.
This book is essential for all fans of bluegrass banjo, Flatt & Scruggs, and the Earl Scruggs Revue or even The Beverly Hillbillies. While not a perfect biography, it does present a solid representation of the man behind the music. (www.rowman.com)RCB