Adding to the Story: The Master from Flint Hill: Earl Scruggs – by Steve Martin, the New Yorker
It is really nice to read about the life of Earl Scruggs, and the manner in which he was open to, and tried out, new musical styles – like adding drums to his Earl Scruggs Revue “a bluegrass no-no,” as Martin says. Not to mention taking a stand on issues like racism and participating in anti-Vietnam War protests, both concerns not popular with the base of Scruggs’ country audience.
Here is a little tidbit of history about Earl Scruggs and Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys to add to the narrative.
In doing research for my documentary, Rovers, Wrestlers and Stars – The Quonset Auditorium in Kentucky (2010), I found an advertisement for one of the last performances of Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt as part of the band, Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys.
This performance took place at the Quonset Auditorium, a regular stop-off for Monroe on the weekly tour circuit back to the Ryman Auditorium, the home of the Grand Ole Opry.
Chubby Wise had already left Monroe’s band, so he did not perform as listed on the ad copy, but according to Tom Ewing (2002), Flatt, Scruggs and Watts were with Monroe for about a week after this performance, and Scruggs stayed with Monroe until close to the end of February, 1948. Monroe continued to perform at the Quonset Auditorium with his new band up until the Quonset Auditorium closed in 1959.
The Quonset closed, in part, due to dwindling attendance as TV performances took the place of live performances in the small towns between destination cities like Nashville, Chicago, and New York on the tour routes.
While this advertisement for the Grand Ole Opry Show indicates the end of an era with Flatt and Scruggs as part Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, it also demonstrates how important venues like the Quonset were in the early careers of many now-famous recording artists (see the documentary to find out more).
I have a great deal of oral history recorded about Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys that did not make it in to my documentary. If anyone is interested they can contact me.
If you are in Kentucky, you can watch my documentary tonight at 10:30 EST on KET-PBS, or on a number of other broadcast dates between now and February 11th, 2012.
Check the KET-PBS broadcast schedule.