The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has announced that Earl Scruggs’ Gibson RB-Granada Mastertone banjo will become a part of their Precious Jewels display. The banjo was Earl’s primary instrument and has never before been exhibited. It will go on display July 12.
The “Precious Jewels” display — located on the third floor within the museum’s core exhibition, Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music — spotlights some of the instruments which built the foundation of American music. Other instruments on display include Mother Maybelle Carter’s Gibson L-5 guitar, Lester Flatt’s Martin D-28 guitar, Bill Monroe’s Gibson F-5 mandolin, Jimmie Rodgers’ Martin 00-18 guitar and Hank Williams’ Martin D-28 guitar.
Earl Scruggs acquired his Granada banjo in a trade with Don Reno in the late 1940s. He used it on the 1949 recording of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” which showcased Earl’s speed and clarity on the banjo. He continued to use the Granada on the road and in the studio for the rest of his life.
Over the years, modifications and repairs were made to the instrument, including refitting it with nickel-plated hardware, replacing a warped neck, and adding cam-style “Scruggs tuners” to the peghead that were then replaced by mechanical D-tuners. In 1988, Gibson restored the Granada’s resonator to its original sunburst finish and installed a curly maple neck in the style of the original.
The banjo Earl learned to play on, an open back 5-string manufactured circa 1900 that belonged to his father, will be on display in the Earl Scruggs Center, which is scheduled to open in Shelby, North Carolina, in late 2013.
Earl’s revolutionary approach to the five-string banjo transformed the instrument into an immediately recognizable sound of a new genre which went on to be known as bluegrass. He demonstrated the banjo’s use as a lead instrument with many musical styles and became known for his willingness to experiment and innovate with the instrument.
Earl, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, passed away in March of 2012 at the age of 88.