The Essential Earl Scruggs

The Essential Earl Scruggs

by Earl Scruggs
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The Essential Earl Scruggs

For an artist with as long and storied a recording career as Earl Scruggs, a two-disc Essential set seems a bit slight. But, in fact, this collection is a tasty, 40-cut overview that captures the variety of this towering banjo man's contributions to contemporary country and popular music. Disc 1 breaks down into selections from the '40s and '50s, when Scruggs was pointing the way toward the future, first as a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys (a period represented here by three cuts from 1946-47), then in his scintillating partnership with guitarist/vocalist Lester Flatt and their band, the Foggy Mountain Boys. This latter incarnation is well documented, with monuments on the order of 1949's "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"; another awesome breakdown from 1959, "Pike Mountain Breakdown"; the irresistible "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms"; a touching rendition of A. P. Carter's "Jimmie Brown, The Newsboy"; and the incendiary instrumental blowout, 1950's "Shuckin' the Corn," on which Scruggs and his mates' speed-picking dexterity remains jaw dropping. Disc 2 surveys the '60s and '70s and features ample samplings of the groundbreaking work Scruggs did with his sons Randy and Gary in the Earl Scruggs Review, as well as choice pairings with artists such as Mother Maybelle Carter, on a mesmerizing version of A.P.'s "Foggy Mountain Top," and Ricky Skaggs, on a heartfelt reading of "We'll Meet Again," one of a handful of '80s tracks here. Yes, the studio version of "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" is included (it's slower than the TV theme song, for those to whom such distinctions matter), and Johnny Cash joins Earl, Randy, and Gary for a rustic take on his beautiful "I Still Miss Someone," from 1975. Music this deep and soulful never grows old.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/02/2004
Label: Sony
UPC: 0827969085820
catalogNumber: 90858
Rank: 32648

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Earl Scruggs   Primary Artist,Banjo,Baritone (Vocal)
Norman Blake   Dobro
Lester Flatt   Guitar,Vocals
Josh Graves   Dobro,Guitar
Bill Monroe   Mandolin,Vocals,Tenor (Vocal)
Johnny Cash   Guitar,Vocals
Rosanne Cash   Background Vocals
Rodney Crowell   Background Vocals
Tom T. Hall   Vocals
Benny Martin   Fiddle
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band   Vocals
Oak Ridge Boys   Background Vocals
Paul Warren   Fiddle
Doc Watson   Guitar
Linda Ronstadt   Vocals
Bonnie Bramlett   Background Vocals
Grady Martin   Guitar
Chubby Wise   Fiddle
Hylo Brown   Guitar,Vocals
John McEuen   Banjo
Mother Maybelle Carter   Autoharp
Byron Berline   Fiddle,Background Vocals
Ron Bledsoe   Organ,Harpsichord
Clyde Brooks   Drums
Kenny Buttrey   Drums
Jerry Carrigan   Drums
Charlie Daniels   12-string Guitar
Chip Young   Rhythm Guitar
Vassar Clements   Fiddle
Shane Keister   Keyboards
Bobby Dyson   Bass
Jimmie Fadden   Harp
Jeff Hanna   Washboard
Buddy Harman   Drums
Bobby Hicks   Fiddle
Karl Himmel   Drums
Teddy Irwin   Rhythm Guitar
Jerry Kroon   Drums
Everett Lilly   Mandolin
Ralph Mooney   Steel Guitar
Farrell Morris   Percussion
Mark O'Connor   Fiddle,Guitar,Mandolin
Ron Oates   Keyboards
Gary Scruggs   Bass,Harmonica,Electric Bass,Vocals
Randy Scruggs   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Rhythm Guitar,Background Vocals,12-string Guitar
Steve Scruggs   Keyboards
Curly Seckler   Mandolin,Tenor (Vocal)
Gene Sisk   Piano
Henry Strzelecki   Bass
Clarence "Tater" Tate   Fiddle
Paul Uhrig   Bass
Howard Watts   String Bass
Charlie McCoy   Harmonica
Bob Moore   Bass,String Bass
Jack Shook   Rhythm Guitar
Art Wooten   Fiddle
Red Rector   Mandolin
Joe & Rose Lee Maphis   Drums,Background Vocals
Louis Innis   Rhythm Guitar
Jake Tullock   String Bass
Jody Rainwater   String Bass
William Paul Ackerman   Drums
Johnny Lee Johnson   Rhythm Guitar
Bob & Pauline Wilson   Piano
Stacey Belson   Vocals
Arloff Boguslavaki   Vocals
Howdy Foster   Fiddle
Junior Husky   Bass

Technical Credits

Lester Flatt   Composer
Bill Monroe   Composer
Earl Scruggs   Arranger,Composer
Johnny Cash   Composer
Bob Dylan   Composer
Michael Nesmith   Composer
Charlie Monroe   Composer
Art Satherley   Producer
Ron Bledsoe   Producer
A.P. Carter   Composer
Béla Fleck   Liner Notes
Buck Graves   Composer
Bob Johnston   Producer
Frank Jones   Producer
Don Law   Producer
Bob McDill   Composer
William McEuen   Producer
Murray Nash   Producer
Hank Williams   Composer
Rich Kienzle   Liner Notes
Wiley Morris   Composer
Zeke Morris   Composer
Norman Seeff   Cover Photo
Howard Fritzson   Art Direction
Gladys Stacey   Composer
Roy Cash   Composer
Louise Certain   Composer
John Thompson   Producer
Traditional   Composer
Mark Unterberger   Packaging Manager
Paul Henning   Composer
Ron Beldsoe   Producer
Robert Radnitz   Producer

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5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Orignally from North Carolina, Earl Eugene Scruggs is an indisputable master of the three-finger style of bluegrass banjo playing. By age 15, he was playing pro with Zeke and Wiley Morris (The Morris Brothers). He joined Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys in 1945, then formed Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys in 1948 .In 1969, Scruggs parted company with Flatt to form a country rock band, The Earl Scruggs Revue, with his sons, Gary, Randy and Steve. That group disbanded a decade later. In 1992, President Bush presented Earl with a National Medal of Artistic Achievement. The year 1997 saw him back on stage at the IBMA Awards Show, Grand Ole Opry, and various festivals. John Hartford once asked and opined, “Who was the first threefinger style banjo picker? It doesn’t really matter, because without Earl no one would be asking that question.” In Twentieth Century America, the terms “Banjo” and “Scruggs” are nearly synonymous. Once can barely speak of one without mention of the other. That is why I was particularly excited to hear about Columbia/Legacy’s release of the double-CD “Essential Earl Scruggs,” in early 2003 to coincide with Scruggs’ 80th birthday. Spanning the seminal picker’s career, the 40 tracks from 1946 to 1984 give us a good overview of his music. Only three tracks (Heavy Traffic Ahead, It’s Mighty Dark to Travel, Molly and Tenbrooks) emanate from Scruggs’ involvement with Bill Monroe in the late-40s, and this cursory treatment is unfortunate. The great majority (about 26 tracks) document the great collaboration of Earl Scruggs with Lester Flatt. I’m not certain how many of the tracks here overlap with another 2-CD set, “The Essential Flatt & Scruggs.” I recently learned on the BGRASS-L listserv that Flatt & Scruggs had 20 entries on the Billboard chart between 1952 and 1968, with 15 of them reaching the Top 40. One could certainly argue that all twenty are essential listening. So where are the likes of charting tracks like Legend of the Johnson Boys, New York Town, My Saro Jane, California Uptight Band, and Like A Rolling Stone? Certainly, a song’s charting success may not be a good measure of its essentialness today. Songs like Roll in my Sweet Baby’s Arms, Salty Dog, Jimmie Brown the Newsboy, Get in Line Brother, and most of Scruggs’ great instrumentals are a basic, indispensable foundation of the bluegrass repertoire. Be sure to tune into Scurggs’ lead guitar work on Jimmie Brown. The cornerstone of bluegrass is well represented here. Of special note are “John Henry” and “Cumberland Gap,” recorded live in 1959 at the Newport Folk Festival with Hylo Brown and the Timberliners, and the 1961 cut of “Foggy Mountain Top” with Mother Maybelle Carter. Johnny Cash appears in the 1975 recording of “I Still Miss Someone,” and Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas and Bobby Hicks make the 1982 rendition of “We’ll Meet Again Sweetheart” quite special. The pioneer banjoplayer’s contributions to Earl Scruggs Revue is documented in four tracks. “Nashville Blues,” recorded in 1971 with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, was originally released on the seminal “Will the Circle be Unbroken” album. Scruggs’ 1982 collaboration with Tom T. Hall is captured with “Song of the South.” Rich Kienzle’s liner notes document the musical innovator’s life. Bela Fleck adds a page of insight also. Earl had hip replacement surgery and suffered a heart attack requiring bypass surgery in October, 1996. It’s very gratifying to read Earl’s own extensive liner notes in which he concludes, “After eighty years, I am thankful that I am able to go out on the road and enjoy working concerts with more enthusiasm than ever.” Every bluegrasser today sh