Earl Scruggs was praised as “the last original architect of the original bluegrass music” in his funeral service on Sunday (April 1) at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. Besides serving as his funeral, it became at the same time a solemn yet joyous celebration of Scruggs’ life and music.
Scruggs died at age 88 on Wednesday (March 28) of natural causes at a Nashville hospital.
He and his revolutionary three-finger banjo style gave birth to the bluegrass form of music on the same Ryman stage in this same downtown Nashville building in 1948 when he and guitarist and singer Lester Flatt joined Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys.
An estimated 2,300 of Scruggs friends and fans packed into the Ryman to see and hear the two-hour memorial service hosted by WSM-AM/Nashville DJ Eddie Stubbs. It was also broadcast live on the station. At one point, after mentioning the Biblical story about the seed that dies and goes into the ground and returns many times over, Stubbs asked the crowd how many of them played banjo. The sheer profusion of raised hands prompted Stubbs to say, “My God, look at that seed! Look at that harvest!”
Scruggs’ famed five-string Gibson Mastertone banjo rested in its stand in a prominent position on stage.
Other speakers mentioned Scruggs’ great humility, his quiet dignity, his true musical originality and his devotion to his wife and family.
Artists and Scruggs friends and colleagues who performed and/or spoke included Del McCoury, Ricky Skaggs, Scruggs’ one-time band member Charlie Daniels, banjo player Bela Fleck, Emmylou Harris, Jon Randall, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band member John McEuen and Marty Stuart.