Exploring the Discography of Life

“…there is a playful randomness about what we find and read.  Or rather, what finds us”

When I first rekindled my interest in songwriting and music again, sixteen or seventeen years ago, I began hanging out in music stores, playing the guitar again and digging out songs from my memory and on faded notebook paper from years ago.  One day, a worker in the store I frequent most, Fretted Instruments of Birminghm, said, “Are you just starting to explore the discography?”  I had just said that “I was getting into bluegrass music” and that was his reply.

I began to delve into just that—listening, going to shows, scooting to Nashville now and then.  I bought a collection of Bill Monroe’s music.  Over the coming years, I heard a lot of music live—Bruce Hornsby, Ricky Skaggs, Nickel Creek, J. D. Crowe, Earl Scruggs, Vince Gill, as well as a lot of lesser-known but excellent players and singers coming through the Station Inn in Nashville or here in Birmingham, Continue reading “Exploring the Discography of Life”

Farewell, Earl Scruggs, and Thank You

1964, on top of the world, with Lester Flatt

Earl Scruggs, “pioneer” as the Huffington Post put it,  of the Three-finger Banjo style, has died.  For some of us, he has been a mentor and inspiration our whole lives.   He was not merely a pioneer, he was the King.  And there are many legends on the banjo–Bela Fleck, Ralph Stanley, Jens Kruger, Don Reno, J. D. Crowe, and many greats.  But no one like Earl.

As a displaced North Carolina boy moving around the country, my Dad kept me connected to music.  He had a Silvertone electric guitar from Sears and a Harmony archtop acoustic guitar.  The electric would shock you if you played in bare feet on the garage floor so I tended to play the acoustic.  I didn’t know much about Earl Scruggs, but I kept running into him over the years.

When we moved to Irving, Texas in the late Sixties, I learned to play very slow rhythm guitar to a very slow “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” (LISTEN) with my seventh grade friend,  Brad Phillips, who was the odd combination of a banjo playing Episcopalian. Continue reading “Farewell, Earl Scruggs, and Thank You”