Foggy Mountain Breakdown
Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs
Foggy Mountain Breakdown

Foggy Mountain Breakdown by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs - This is the instrumental by which the skill of any banjoist is judged.  It is the equivalent of playing Eruption for the rock guitarist.  This is one of the all-time classic bluegrass tunes and was selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Recording Registry.

Behind the Tunes: “Behind-the-Scenes Star”
By Charles Haymes

Throughout my life, I have always heard the saying, ‘Behind every great man, there is a great woman.’ For banjo legend Earl Scruggs, that statement could not have been any closer to the truth. She was the first female booking agent in Nashville and without question, she used her take-charge approach to do exactly that for five decades.
Born Ann Louise Certain, she grew up in Lebanon, Tennessee. During the struggles of the Great Depression, her parents worked extremely hard just to make ends meet. As a child, Louise received a toy typewriter. This proved to be an early incentive for things to come.
Louise spent her adolescent years dreaming of a better life. Finally, her childhood wishes came true. She moved to Nashville and worked as an accountant.
She attended a Grand Ole Opry performance in 1946.. Among the artists on the show that evening were Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys. While most of the audience was shouting and screaming at Earl’s three-finger banjo style, Louise was more impressed by the then 22-year-old musician for his looks, not so much his playing. Following the show, the two met.
Realizing the potential of their own act, Earl and guitarist Lester Flatt left the Blue Grass Boys in 1948. Soon, they formed Flatt & Scruggs. Later that year, Earl and Louise married. In 1955, Louise started managing and booking Flatt & Scruggs. Immediately, she brought organization to an unorganized bluegrass field while keeping a firm hand on the duo’s pulse. And it worked. As the folk music scene became increasingly popular, Louise began booking Flatt & Scruggs on college campuses and folk festivals throughout the country.
Then, Hollywood called. In 1962, the music of Flatt & Scruggs became the opening theme for The Beverly Hillbillies, as their version of “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” marked the first bluegrass song to reach number one on the country charts. In addition, Flatt & Scruggs began making occasional appearances on the CBS sitcom.
Another key event happened in 1967. The Flatt & Scruggs instrumental “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” was used as the theme for the film Bonnie and Clyde, although the tune was actually recorded in 1949. Of all of Louise’s decisions, one of the most striking was calling artist Thomas B. Allen to paint eye-catching covers for 17 of Flatt & Scruggs’ albums. As records were on store shelves, this instantly gave their albums a blend of uniqueness and individuality.
Monroe had created bluegrass music, but it was Flatt & Scruggs who set the standard of quality that we associate today with the genre. From behind the scenes, Louise was in charge. She took the duo and bluegrass music to uncharted territory.
In 1969, the legendary two-some went their sperate ways. Flatt formed the Nashville Grass, a traditional band. As for Earl, he teamed with his sons and experimented with new sounds as the Earl Scruggs Revue. Once again, Louise guided the vessel.
When the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band recorded their ground-breaking album “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” in 1972, both Louise and Earl played a major role in assembling older musicians for the project. For the remainder of the decade, the Earl Scruggs Revue continued to be popular with the folk-rock crowd. On Feb. 2, 2006, Louise died. She was 78. Last year, Louise was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. This was a fitting accolade for a lady who quietly helped her husband’s name become synonymous with the five-string banjo.

MARCH 28, 2017

MARCH 28: Richard Arlen, Russell Banks, Richard L. Bare, Rick Barry, August Busch, Marc Chagall, Harry Crews, Clemence Dane, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Eyre, Conchata Ferrell, Nick Frost, Richard Griffiths, W.C. Handy, Thad Jones, Radu Jude, Richard Kelly, David Keuning (Killers), Lady Gaga, Ryan Little, Reba McEntire, Modest Mussorgsky, Chris Myers, Mike Newell, Frederick Pabst, Max Perlich, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Brett Ratner, Gene Saks, Salt (N-Pepa), Earl Scruggs, Hiroshi Shimizu, Jerry Sloan, Julia Stiles, Jim Thorpe, Peter Ustinov, Vince Vaughn, Luke Walton, Dianne Wiest, Robert J. Wilke, Virginia Woolf…

ALBUMS OF THE DAY: Flatt and Scruggs “Strictly Instrumental” (1967), W.C. Handy “Father of the Blues” (1962), Thad Jones “Live at the Village Vanguard” (1967), The Killers “Sawdust” (2007), Led Zeppelin “Houses of the Holy” (1973), Wilco “A.M.” (1995)

BOOKS OF THE DAY: Russell Banks “Affliction” (1989), “The Sweet Hereafter” (1991), Harry Crews “Scar Lover” (1992), Virginia Woolf “To the Lighthouse” (1927)

CRITERIONS OF THE DAY: Japanese Girls at the Harbor (1933), The Masseurs and a Woman (1938), Mr. Thank You (1936), Ornamental Hairpin (1941)

DOC’S OF THE DAY: Hank: Five Years From the Brink (2013), Harry Crews: Survival is Triumph Enough (2007), Inside Job (2010), Iris Chang: the Rape of Nanking (2007), Why We Fight (2005)

FILMS OF THE DAY: Afferim! (2015), Affliction (1997), Barefoot in the Park (1967), The China Syndrome (1979), Donnie Brasco (1997), Donnie Darko (2001), Enchanted April (1992), Hot Fuzz (2007), The Hours (2002), Island of Lost Souls (1932), Ivan the Terrible (1944/1958), Jim Thorpe: All-American (1951), Shine (1996), The Sweet Hereafter (1997), Swingers (1996)

FOODIE: Black Forest Cake, Pabst Blue Ribbon

HISTORICAL CONSCIOUSNESS: 1979 - America’s worst commercial nuclear accident occurred inside the Unit Two reactor at the Three Mile Island plant near Middletown, Pa.

HOLIDAY: Weed Appreciation Day

“Loyalty is weird, it kicks in when you don’t expect it and the people who deserve loyalty least seem to get it the most.” Banks

“Alcohol whipped me. Alcohol and I had many, many marvelous times together. We laughed, we talked, we danced at the party together; then one day I woke up and the band had gone home and I was lying in the broken glass with a shirt full of puke and I said, ‘Hey, man, the ball game’s up’.” Crews

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Eisenhower

“Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.” Gaga

“Baby you are so money and don’t even know it.” Trent Walker (Swingers)

“Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.” Woolf

pictured: Nick Frost (Born 1972), Lady Gaga (Born 1986)

It’s a little misleading to say three fingers. It’s actually two fingers, middle and index finger, and your thumb, and it’s kind of — some of the rolls will go, if you number your thumb one, the index two and your middle finger three, it’s like a one-two-three roll, over and over. But to do a tune, it’s like trying to say every word with the exact same amount of syllables in the word. You’ve got to alternate the rolls some to make the tune flow.
—  Banjo player Earl Scruggs talked to Terry Gross about his signature picking method.

Master banjo picker Earl Scruggs would have been 89 today. Born 1/6/24.

Here’s Earl & Doc Watson picking together on John Hardy & Cripple Creek.