Home country music Google Doodle celebrates Earl Scruggs, banjo-picking pioneer

Google Doodle celebrates Earl Scruggs, banjo-picking pioneer


Google shows off the fancy finger work of banjo legend Earl Scruggs.

Google dedicated an animated Doodle to Scruggs today, highlighting his finger-picking method, which helped elevate the status of the banjo from a background instrument to one that now commands the spotlight.  Friday marks five years since the opening of The Earl Scruggs Center in his home state of North Carolina.

Earl Scruggs revolutionized the way we play and appreciate the banjo today.

Scruggs, who was born 95 years ago this month, developed his own three-finger method of picking the five-string banjo – an approach so radical it’s now widely referred to as “Scruggs style.”  That style, which features picks attached to the thumb, index finger and middle finger, has become a defining characteristic of bluegrass music and the most popular style of playing banjo in the genre.

Scruggs was born in North Carolina on Jan. 6, 1924, to a family that played music when not farming. After his father died when Scruggs was four, who played fiddle and banjo. The young boy seemed to find solace by practicing the banjo when he wasn’t in school or doing his farm chores.  His siblings indulged in the banjo and guitar and Scruggs’ mother played the organ, according to his official website biography.

Scruggs was hardly five years old when he picked up the banjo and eventually taught himself how to play. By age 10, he began perfecting the art of three-finger plucking on a five-string banjo, a technique that would go on to become globally recognized as “Scruggs-Style” picking and ultimately “changed the sound of American roots music.”  His first radio performance was at the age of 11.

According to his official website, “this banjo picking style originated around a small area where Earl grew up and was not heard in any other part of the country except in that general region of North Carolina.

At age 21, Scruggs joined Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys band, which birthed the term “bluegrass music,” according to Google’s blog. But it wasn’t until he began working closely with guitarist Lester Flatt in 1948, who left Monroe’s band and took Scruggs with him, that the duo launched the Foggy Mountain Boys.

Scruggs played into his later years. His talent and unique Scruggs-Style picking eventually earned him four Grammy Awards, National Medal of the Arts, the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a coveted spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Scruggs’ music was played on The Beverly Hillbillies and the soundtrack to the 1967 film “Bonnie & Clyde.”

Scruggs died of natural causes on March 28, 2012. He was 88


Born: January 6, 1924, Cleveland County, North Carolina, NC
March 28, 2012, Nashville, TN
Spouse: Louise Scruggs (m. 1948–2006)
Children: Randy Scruggs, Gary Scruggs, Steve Scruggs