Lester Flatt and Earl ScruggsMarch 06, 2012
Flatt & Scruggs
Earl Eugene Scruggs
Date of Birth: January 6, 1924
Place of Birth: Flint Hill, Cleveland County, North Carolina
Married: Ann Louise Cirtain
Children: Gary Eugene, Randy Lynn, Steven Earl (dec'd)
Lester Raymond Flatt
Date of Birth: June 19, 1914
Place of Birth: Duncan's Chapel, Tennessee
Date of Death: May 11, 1979
Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs helped to define bluegrass as we know it today when they joined Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys in 1945 with fiddler Chubby Wise and bassist Cedric Rainwater (real name: Howard Watts). Flatt contributed solid guitar accompaniment, accentuated with strategically placed runs and his bluesy lead vocals. Flatt had earlier performed with Charlie Monroe & the Kentucky Partners, and with Charlie Scott. Scruggs is known today as the father of bluegrass banjo. His three-finger banjo roll style is what gives the music its "drive." In 1948, the two left the Bluegrass Boys to form their own group, the Foggy Mountain Boys and performed on WCYB's "Farm and Fun Time" program in Bristol, Virginia. The group became a flagship for bringing bluegrass to the attention of the world through their appearances on radio, then sound tracks for television ("The Beverly Hillbillies") and finally in film ("Bonny and Clyde"). The two parted ways in 1969 and Flatt continued his traditional bluegrass sound in his group the Nashville Grass while Scruggs performed more contemporary music with his sons in the Earl Scruggs Review. Flatt passed away in 1979. Scruggs retired in the 1980s but still plays from time to time. The two were inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985.
One of the most influential banjo players in Country music history, Earl Scruggs brought one of the distinctive features of Bluegrass music — the three-finger method of playing — to wider audience by blending it with Bluegrass. At the same time, he gave Bluegrass a sound that at the time seemed fresh, greatly increasing the form's appear.
Earl started performing in public at the age of 6 with a band made up of his brothers. By 1939, he was appearing on radio with a group called the Carolina Wildcats. He didn't immediately embark on a music career after high school, however, but worked on a farm and in a textile mill to support his widowed mother. Soon, he began performing with "Lost" John Miller and the Allied Kentuckians on WNOX Knoxville and WSM Nashville. Shortly afterward, Miller stopped touring and Earl was out of work. He was hired for Bill Monroe's band and in a short time became a star instrumentalist. In 1948, Earl and guitarist-singer Lester Flatt left Monroe and became a duo act fronting the Foggy Mountain Boys, consisting initially of Mac Wiseman (guitar, vocals), Jim Eames (guitar, vocals), Jim Shumate (fiddle) and Cedric Rainwater (bass). Later that year, they became regulars on WCYB's popular "Farm & Fun Time" radio program in Bristol, Tennessee and signed a recording contract with Mercury. In 1953, Martha White Flour began sponsoring their program on WSM in Nashville, and in 1955, the band was invited to join the Grand Old Opry.
In 1969, the pair went their separate ways, with Flatt pursuing a more traditional sound and Earl going in a different direction with the Earl Scruggs Revue, featuring his own songs and a more Rock-oriented sound.