Monday, July 16, 2007

"Swimming pools... movie stars"

Excuse me for laughing: I have been watching some clips from "The Beverly Hillbillies" on YouTube this morning.
Specifically, I have been enjoying some of the appearances by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.

The bluegrass stars provided the show's theme tune, "The Ballad of Jed Clampett," and took the song to the top of the country charts in January 1963. (Apparently, the only other TV theme tune to accomplish that feat was Waylon Jennings' "Good Ol' Boys" from "The Dukes of Hazzard.")
What most viewers of Beverly Hillbillies might not have fully appreciated was the presence of a musical revolutionary in their midst.
Prior to Scruggs joining Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in the late 1940s, most banjo players played with a downward stroking "clawhammer" style. Scruggs took a more melodic route, refining a three-fingered picking style he had learned as a boy in North Carolina.
According to music writer Jon Weisberger, this style enabled Scruggs to "pick out melodies with unprecedented precision and surround them with regular patterns of other notes."
The result is a complexity that other banjo players soon strove to emulate.
None of them were quite as funny on television, though.


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