2,300 mourners turned out Sunday, April 1 to pay tribute to the late Earl Scruggs at the public funeral held at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, reports the Associated Press. It was a fitting tribute to the legendary banjo player,who played his songs for years on the Grand Ole Opry and Ryman stage. Earl passed away at the age of 88 on March 28.
“No one will ever play the banjo like Earl,” Charlie Daniels said. Better known for his fiddle and guitar playing, Charlie told those gathered the mourners that when he was a young studio musician, Earl invited him to join the Earl Scruggs Revue.
Earl partnered with Lester Flatt, a guitarist, for 20 years to become the most famous duo in Bluegrass. The pair were best known for their song “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” from The Beverly Hillbillies TV series. Before that, their song “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” was featured in 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde movie. The pair went their separate ways in 1969 and Lester passed away 10 years later in 1979.
“He was the most humble musician I ever met,” Ricky Skaggs said of Earl. “He was always listening,not at himself but at the next generation.” Bluegrass artist Del McCoury echoed that statement, crediting Earl with inspiring him to pick up a guitar. “If not for Earl Scruggs, I might not have played music at all,” he said.
Von Moye was among the mourners. A banjo player himself, he drove from Flat Top, West Virginia for the funeral. “He had a gift,” Von said. “He took three fingers and gave it a whole new style.”
Earl was known for his three finger style of banjo playing over the limited clawhammer style that was once popular. His three finger style elevated the banjo to a lead instrument that was not only flashy, but as versatile as a guitar.
Earl’s closed casket sat in front of the Ryman’s famous stage with a banjo on display behind it. Del McCoury, Ricky Skaggs, Bela Fleck, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Jon Randall Stewart, John McEuen, Jim Mills, Marty Stuart and Patty Loveless performed during the service.
The Ryman Auditorium is located near the downtown honky tonks,where Earl’s music is still played. His plaque in the Country Music Hall of Fame is located just three blocks away. The ACM Awards paid tribute to the bluegrass legend during last night’s live broadcast.