At an 80th birthday party for Scruggs in January 2004, country great Porter Wagoner said: "I always felt like Earl was to the five-string banjo what Babe Ruth was to baseball. He is the best there ever was, and the best there ever will be."
My fascination with the 5 string banjo is a direct result of watching Earl Scruggs when I was a kid. He was indeed the best.
Heard a story on the radio today. Earl worked in a textile factory in the small town on the outskirts of Charlotte, NC where I grew up. That was 40 years before I came along there and before he "made it" in the music business. It is possible it was the same mill that belonged to some friends of my parent's when we lived there. I know, small connection with fame, but Earl was always a favorite of mine. Along with acid rock and folk, I used to go to the Union Grove Old Time Fiddlers Convention every spring!
I recall a NPR program a few years back with Billy Bob Thornton and a music project he was working on. One part dealt with Earl and Billy describing the playing of Earl as "in the pocket". It was the best banjo picking I had ever heard. Spot On. Truly a work of art. It was like listening to Jimi Hendrix, or Eric Clapton for the first time. So rare is that moment where you hear something and know it is timeless.