Earl Scruggs (1924-2012)
There were banjo players, and there was Earl Scruggs. These days fame can be achieved, and usually it seems, is achieved, by random no-talent nobodies who strike lucky and rise to prominence on the backs of reality shows, or else former no-talent nobodies who rise over the ashes of their brief has-been careers to exploit themselves as the butt of jokes in other reality shows, but Earl Scruggs was the Real Deal. He taught himself to play - taught himself! And of course he had to, because who else would have even dreamed of that lunatic, syncopated, blizzard of notes? There is a pantheon of musicians that just to hear them is to feel good, and Earl Scruggs was one of them. You just had to grin to hear that white-water river rhythm and those mad-cap riffs. And on top of this, Scruggs was a good man. Like the best of the old-timey country musicians, there was no pretense in him, no humbug. He was not out to sell some agenda or even himself; he was content to disappear behind his music. Not that this matters a whit as regards his well-deserved fame. He would be listened to were he the veriest asshole to trod the earth. He was great because of his musicianship. He was loved for who he was.