earl scruggs, 1924-2012

earl scruggs.

What Bob Dylan was to folk music songcraft, what Miles Davis was to jazz trumpet, so was Earl Scruggs to bluegrass banjo. He was a stylistic maverick, to be sure. There are multiple generations of instrumentalists – and you can bet Lexington’s own J.D. Crowe would be proud to count himself among them – that were inspired (if not completely transformed) by Scruggs’ famed 3 finger banjo style. But Scruggs – who died yesterday at age 88 – was way, way more than just a role model.

With a career defining ‘50s and ‘60s partnership with Lester Flatt behind him, Scruggs entered the 70s by teaming with his sons and mixing bluegrass with electrified doses of rock, jazz fusion and, at times, even funk. The bluegrass faithful at the time were dumbstruck. But just as Dylan and Davis were simultaneously cheered and lambasted for daring to invest their respective musical traditions with electricity, so was Scruggs. This was clearly a soul not content to spend the rest of his days playing Foggy Mountain Breakdown, even though he won a second Grammy for a reworked, all-star recording of the tune in 2001 (his first came in 1969).

My first exposure to Scruggs came as a child. It wasn’t through his pioneering work with Bill Monroe in the late ‘40s, but through cameo appearances in ‘60s episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies. Some today might slight the program for enforcing tired rural stereotypes. But here is news for them: there was nothing remotely stereotypical about Earl Scruggs.

I got to interview Scruggs only once. It takes distinction, because it was one of my few interview pieces not to get published. We talked in April 2007 ahead of what was to have been a festival performance in Frankfort. The concert was cancelled well ahead of its proposed show date, so the story was scrapped. The idea was to hold it for whenever he played in the region again. He never did.

I’ll post a partial transcription of that interview in a few days. Until then, give a listen to one of these three definitive – but wildly different – Scruggs albums: 1963’s Flatt and Scruggs at Carnegie Hall (arguably the duo’s finest recorded hour and certainly one of the all-time great bluegrass concert recordings), 1973’s The Earl Scruggs Revue (the solidification of the banjo icon’s new generational music) and 2003’s Three Pickers (a sublime, no frills acoustic string summit with Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs). The recordings span nearly 40 years but all boast the brilliance of possibly the most versed banjo voice of this or any age.

FEEDER WARS: How to get rid of ‘bad’ birds

February 12, 2006 | John McCoy johnmccoy@wvgazette.com A well-stocked bird feeder can be a delight to behold. Dozens of brightly colored birds flit about, competing for perch space and life- giving sustenance. web site how to get rid of gas

But sometimes the bullies come.

Pigeons, starlings, grackles and house sparrows have an annoying habit of muscling in and dominating feeders. If they’re not crowding out the cardinals, chickadees and goldfinches, they’re covering the ground surrounding the feeders with droppings.

“It’s the old desirable-undesirable dilemma,” said Randy Urian, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Barboursville. “How do you continue to attract the ‘desirable’ birds while discouraging the ‘undesirable’ ones?” It’s a question Urian hears all the time.

“I get a lot of complaints, particularly about pigeons, starlings and house sparrows,” he said. “They tend to be the birds we’re asked about most frequently.” All three species have adapted well – some say too well – to living in and around human populations.

“Pigeons, in particular, seem to be more problematic in cities and towns,” Urian said. “They’re attracted to structures such as bridges and billboards. As long as food and shelter are nearby, you’ll find them. And since they’ve adapted to our presence, they’ve learned to eat the stuff we put out for other birds.” Because pigeons prefer to feed on the ground, Urian suggested keeping seed sources off the ground. “It doesn’t hurt to keep the ground under the feeders as clean as possible, either,” he added.

Clip-on trays mounted below tube-style feeders help to catch falling seeds and keep the ground clean. One-inch wire mesh “pigeon and squirrel guards” also help keep larger birds from getting to the feeders.

House sparrows and starlings are more difficult to get rid of. Their smaller size and ability to perch allow them to compete directly with most common feeder species.

“And they’ll eat just about anything,” Urian said. “The key to keeping them away is to avoid giving them their favorite foods, which are cracked corn and white millet.” Most commercial seed mixtures have at least some millet in them. Urian said the better mixtures tend to minimize the amount of millet and maximize seeds that attract more desirable species. go to website how to get rid of gas

“Blends heavy in black-oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds and niger [thistle] seeds are best for attracting the songbirds most people like to watch,” he said. “With them, you’ll get birds such as cardinals, titmice, goldfinches, purple finches, chickadees and nuthatches.” The bottom line, Urian added, is to increase feeder use by “good” birds and reduce use by “bad” birds.

“There’s no magic to this,” he said. “There’s no guarantee that any of these measures will completely stop undesirable birds from coming to the feeders, but there’s a good chance they’ll help to reduce the number.” John McCoy

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