Back in 1949, a young banjo player named Earl Scruggs wrote an instrumental bluegrass piece that would become a standard tune in music, chases, movies and worldwide culture. The magnificent and challenging -no matter the instrument- Foggy Mountain Breakdown is just one of the many legacies and joys the great Earl left on the music world after his death last March.
Back in 2002, the Banjo Master gathered some friends from the music and movie industries and recorded a revisited version of his classic. Thirteen musicians playing solos back and forth with eleven different instruments for almost 5 minutes before leaving the spotlight to one of the greatest musicians of our time seems like too much of visual and sounding emotion to not feel touched by it.
The actor Steve Martin (a hell of a banjo player), Glen Duncan, Randy Scruggs, Vince Gill (country legend), Marty Stuart (country and guitar virtuoso), Gary Scruggs, Albert Lee (one of the best guitarist in the world), Paul Shaffer (piano virtuoso, long time musician on Late Show With David Letterman and producer), Jerry Douglas, Leon Russell (organ legend), Glenn Worf and Harry Stinson, an assemble of musicians any producer would be proud to have at hand, appeared on the track and made this track one of the best evidences of each musicians talent. The musicianship displayed on this performance and the live appearances of this nameless super group and the respect they paid to Earl Scruggs’ legacy made this track won its second Grammy award that year.
The joy, energy and effortless virtuosism displayed by Scruggs on this video (one of the only two he ever recorded for a single’s release) showcases the reason he was and will always be beloved and considered one of the titans in bluegrass and music history: he’s just was and will always be the best. He’s the one who took an instrument considered comedic and pointless and placed it as a genre’s standard and skill challenge.
Dear Earl, you are missed.
Jorge A. López Mendicuti | Senior Writer