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Earl Scruggs, bluegrass legend, dies at age 88

Lu8zlipdBluegrass legend and banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs, who helped profoundly change country music with Bill Monroe in the 1940s and later with guitarist Lester Flatt, has died. He was 88.

Scruggs' son Gary said his father died of natural causes Wednesday morning at a Nashville, Tenn., hospital.

Earl Scruggs was an innovator who pioneered the modern banjo sound. His use of three fingers rather than the clawhammer style elevated the banjo from a part of the rhythm section — or a comedian's prop — to a lead instrument.

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His string-bending and lead runs became known worldwide as “the Scruggs picking style” and the versatility it allowed has helped popularize the banjo in almost every genre of music.

Scruggs, born Jan. 6, 1924, in Flint Hill, N.C., learned to play banjo at age 4. He appeared at age 11 on a radio talent scout show. By age 15, he was playing in bluegrass bands.

“My music came up from the soil of North Carolina,” Scruggs said in 1996 when he was honored with a heritage award from his home state.

The Times will have more on his life and career shortly.

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-- Associated Press

Photo: Earl Scruggs, performed with his band, which included his two sons, at UCLA's Royce Hall in 2011. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

 
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