Saturday, April 7, 2012

So Long, Earl Scruggs

"...praise Him with stringed instruments and organs."  Psalm 150:4  (KJV)

God inhabits and delights in the praises of His people.
He absolutely deserves and merits our praise.

And He blesses some by gifting them with special talents to play stringed instruments.

Kevin called on his way home from work to tell me the sad news.  

A legend.....someone who was a cherished part of our lives, our history, our memories....
had passed away.  

Tears began to well up and fall.
Nothing could have held them back.  

It's not that I knew Earl Scruggs personally, but knowing he has passed away fills me with a very deep sadness....a sense of longing....for days gone by. 
For you see, I don't think I will ever have a thought of Earl, that isn't followed by thoughts and happy memories of someone else I still miss so much....even though he's been gone nearly 12 years.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are ones of my Daddy playing his banjo.

 I loved to hear him play.  He didn't read music.  He played by ear.
He would play and praise God on his stringed instrument....and warm my heart.

Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Cripple Creek, Earl's Breakdown, and Home Sweet Home, were some of his favorite instrumentals.  
They are still some of mine, among many others.

There was something very soothing and comforting to know that Dad had picked up his instrument.  
It seemed to take him to another somehow ease the troubled, worried lines from his brow.

It was like a therapeutic his hands...that gave him a sense of peace.
As a little girl, I would sit beside him and listen, then sing and wish I could play along.

I still love hearing Mom tell the stories of when she and Dad were dating.  
He had just started learning to play the banjo, and he would take it with them nearly everywhere they went.  
She would drive, and he would pick his banjo on the front seat beside her.

His teachers?  Masters of the instrument themselves......Ralph Stanley and Earl Scruggs.

Dad would listen to their records over and over, and he would do his utmost to sound just like them.  
He would ask Mom repeatedly whether his picking sounded like theirs..  
If Mom said, no, he would keep trying...over and over, until he got it right...exactly right.

Dad was also very gifted in playing the guitar, and after I left home and would come back to visit on the weekends, he began to teach me.  I would learn a chord, then go back and practice it every chance I got.  The very first song he taught me to pick was "Wildwood Flower", an old, old song made famous by the Carter Family and played by Mother Maybelle Carter.

After Dad taught me the guitar, I would often tell him how badly I wanted to learn to play the banjo.  

He'd look at me and say, "If you can't get the roll down, you'll never be able to play it."

He's right.

I have tried and tried to get it, but all of my efforts have, so far, been in vain.

When Dad died, he didn't leave much behind, in the way of worldly possessions.
A few clothes, his wallet, his tools for Kevin, and some things he had made for me.
And he left something I cherish more than money.
He left me his five string banjo.

It's an Old Kraftsman.
It's one of my most precious possessions.

It is old and has weathered a lot of picking sessions....surrounded by family, friends, singing, laughter, and good times.

There is a well-worn spot right under the strings where his hand rested...a reminder of many happy hours spent....doing something he loved so much.

The other day, I took it out.
For old time's sake.
I held it with respect, and I played the notes to Foggy Mountain Breakdown...
(without the necessary roll, of course).
How I wish I could get that roll down and play it like Dad did!  Like Earl did!

When I was finished, I tenderly tucked it, along with my precious memories, away....way back in the closet where I keep it safe...away from harm.

When I heard Earl was gone, it felt like a piece of my connection to the my musical heritage.....died with him.

I never hear the sounds of a banjo being played without thinking of Dad...and Earl.

I guess I never will.

Two men....gifted by play upon a stringed bless and comfort and praise.

May they both rest in peace with Him Who gave them the gift.

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