The bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs, whose three-finger banjo-picking technique became known as “Scruggs style,” is celebrated at a new museum near his childhood home of Flint Hill, N.C., in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. The Earl Scruggs Center, in the restored 1907 Cleveland County courthouse in downtown Shelby, covers the life, time and community of the musical innovator, who died in 2012 at the age of 88.
“Earl and his family approved things every step of the way,” said Emily Epley, executive director of the $6.2 million center. “We have some great footage of him going back to his home place and showing where he had his aha moment.”
Along with recent and archival video footage, two floors of exhibits include oral histories, a showcase of instruments from Scruggs and his musical relatives, local and regional history and state-of-the-art interactive exhibits. In “Banjo Breakdown,” clear-fronted banjos are shown from the inside out, allowing viewers to compare playing styles.
The multimedia “Common Threads” reveals intersections of artist, instrument, style and place and also allows users to throw their own “pickin’ party,” jamming on virtual mandolins, banjos, guitars and other bluegrass instruments.
The grand opening celebration on Jan. 11 includes free daytime family activities and music, while a ticketed evening event features bluegrass and country stars like Vince Gill, Travis Tritt, Sam Bush and Earl’s sons Gary and Randy, stars in their own right.