Wiki says (and anybody who knows a little bit about American country music and bluegrass knows as well), Scruggs perfected and popularized the three finger picking style on the five string banjo. The style is now called the "Scruggs Style."
One of his most famous and influential compositions is "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," which has become a standard among bluegrass musicians. Wiki says if you can deliver a convincing rendition of this tune, you are recognized as an "intermediate" level banjo player. Well, I don't know about that. I do know it's one of the most challenging pieces to be played on the instrument.
Scruggs wrote the tune back in the late '40s when he and Lester Flatt were members of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys, and I first remember hearing it on the Flatt and Scruggs local TV show in the Nashville area in the '50s. It became instantly recognizable nationally after it was used frequently in the 1967 movie "Bonnie and Clyde."
The influence he had on other musicians and their respect for him is displayed in this video of his famous tune. Yes, that's Mr. Leon Russell on the organ. I think you'll recognize quite few of the other musicians as well.
I regularly watched the Flatt and Scruggs TV show back in the '50s. The show was on right before supper time and I associate the old Flatt and Scruggs sound with images of my Mother in the kitchen frying pork chops or mashing potatoes or making some biscuits with Martha White Flour. I can almost hear that sizzle and smell the chops in the skillet now.
Flatt and Scruggs were together from the late '40s until 1969 when they decided to go their separate ways. The decision was pretty much Earl's because he wanted to play some more contemporary material and Lester wanted to stay with the traditional stuff. Lester hired most of the Foggy Mountain Boys and started a new band called Nashville Grass. After Earl left, he created the Earl Scruggs Revue with his sons. Both men enjoyed success after the split. Lester Flatt died in 1979.
Even though they split and they're both gone now, they remain forever united and alive in my memory. Here's a couple of songs from those golden days, "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms," and "My Blue Ridge Cabin Home."
(Note: This is off on a tangent and I probably mentioned it before, but T. Tommy Cutrer, the emcee on the second video, was one of the candidates in the 4th District (my district) Democratic primary that 28 year old Al Gore won back in 1976. Gore won the primary election with just a little over 30 percent of the vote. Cutrer finished a close second. I've often wondered if history would have been a little different had there been one less candidate in that primary. My guess is Cutrer probably would have won, as for what Gore would have done after that, who knows.)