What Earl Scruggs Heard

String Music Along the North Carolina–South Carolina Border


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About the Book

When the story of banjo superstar Earl Scruggs is told, the rich musical environment that produced him is often ignored. During his lifetime Scruggs spun a creation myth around his playing, convincing many that he was the sole originator of a three-finger, up-picking, banjo style. For the first time, this book tells the full story of the music and musicians of the western Carolinas that influenced Earl Scruggs. Based on more than 15 years of in-depth research, this book includes the story of country music recording pioneers Parker and Woolbright, Fisher Hendley and Martin Melody Boys; rare images of area music makers; and the history and development of fiddlers’ conventions and radio barn dances. Together, these stories are woven into the biographies of Earl’s mentors to reveal the musical atmosphere in which they developed the “three-finger picking” style that so enchanted a young Earl Scruggs.

About the Author(s)

Musician and writer Bob Carlin is the author of several books. His articles have been published in Journal of Country Music and Bluegrass Unlimited. He lives in Lexington, North Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

Bob Carlin
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 212
Bibliographic Info: 97 photos, appendix, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8667-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4424-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v
Preface: Why Earl? 1
One. ­Pre-History “B.E.” (Before Earl) 5
Two. The Greatest Musical Tournament in Western North Carolina 18
Three. John W. Ross, Charlie Parker and Mack Woolbright Part One 33
Four. Mack Woolbright: Parts Two and Three 53
Five. What Earl Scruggs Heard 65
Six. Crazy Crystals and Aristocratic Pigs: The Fisher Hendley Story 75
Seven.­ WBT-Charlotte 87
Eight. Crazy Water and Crazy Bands 105
Nine. Aristocratically Yours, Fisher Hendley 129
Conclusion: ­Post-History “A.E.” (After Earl) 162
Discography 165
Chapter Notes 171
Bibliography 195
Index 201