Padgett has known Scruggs for 64 years. As boys, Padgett, Scruggs and Scruggs’ brother gathered together for “picking.” They’d sit in circles and play dozens of songs on their instruments – trying new sounds and perfecting new techniques.
“I saw it develop,” Padgett said of Scruggs’ rolling, three-finger picking style. Scruggs pioneered the movement, which adds a pick on the middle finger and allows banjo players to roll three notes together.
Scruggs, from the Flint Hill community, just south of Boiling Springs, died Wednesday in a Tennessee hospital. He was 88. Scruggs’ music career spans nearly eight decades and includes Grammy awards as well as a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Padgett, an accomplished performer and artist himself, remembers his friend Scruggs as a dedicated musician and a talented picker. Padgett teaches music lessons on several stringed instruments in his studio in Uptown Shelby.
His classroom is filled with framed photos of bluegrass and country music legends. Many of the photos are of Padgett, Scruggs and other banjo players, smiling at the camera with instruments in hand.
“Earl – he was the man,” Padgett said. “Without him, I doubt bluegrass would have ever gotten so big.”
Putting Cleveland County on the map
Padgett first met the Scruggs family when one of Scruggs’ brothers came to his house and asked for “the little boy that plays the banjo.” Padgett later filled in for Scruggs when Scruggs couldn’t make a performance with Lester Flatt.
The last time Padgett saw Scruggs was about six years ago at a music festival. The pair
“He put Cleveland County on the map internationally,” Padgett said.
Padgett said he always knew there was something special about Scruggs and his music. People often asked Padgett what made Scruggs and his group of pickers so talented.
The answer? Practice.
“We play more than everybody else,” Padgett said.
Padgett said Scruggs was a success not just because of his immense musical talent. Scruggs had a desire to succeed, and he made that happen, Padgett said.
“’I’m going to try to make a business with this music,’” Padgett recalled Scruggs saying when Scruggs was about 35 years old. “’I intend to make something out of it.’”