Earl Scruggs — who died Wednesday at the age of 88 — was one of the giants of bluegrass music, perhaps rivaled only by Bill Monroe. He helped spread its popularity to audiences beyond the sound's roots in the South.
His son Gary said his father passed away of natural causes at a Nashville hospital.
Scruggs grew up on a farm as the youngest child in a family of musicians. His father (who died when Scruggs was only 4) was a farmer and a bookkeeper who played fiddle and banjo. His mother and four older brothers and sisters also played banjo and guitar.
Scruggs joined Monroe's band, making his first recording with the group, “Heavy Traffic Ahead,” in 1946. He branched off with Lester Flatt to create a new band, the Foggy Mountain Boys (taking their name from the Carter Family song, “Foggy Mountain Top”). In 1962, Flatt and Scruggs with vocalist Jerry Scoggins recorded the theme song for TV's “The Beverly Hillbillies,” which became a hit single as “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” reaching No. 1 for three weeks on the country chart. Flatt and Scruggs made many subsequent appearances on the show.
Flatt and Scruggs won a Grammy Award for the instrumental "Foggy Mountain Breakdown” in 1969 and were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985. As a solo artist, Scruggs won a Grammy for 2001's “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” (featuring Steve Martin on second banjo). Scruggs got his star on the Walk of Fame on Feb. 13, 2003.