Public paying last respects to Earl Scruggs

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NASHVILLE, TENN. (AP) - Mourners gathered Sunday in the country music capital to pay last respects to bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs.

A public funeral was set at the Ryman Auditorium near a cluster of downtown honky-tonks where Scruggs‘ music is still played. His plaque in the Country Music Hall of Fame is three blocks away.

The Academy of Country Music planned a tribute Sunday night at its annual awards show in Las Vegas.

The pioneering banjo player who teamed for 20 years with guitarist Lester Flatt died Wednesday at age 88.

Flatt and Scruggs were best known for their song “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” from “The Beverly Hillbillies” TV series. For many viewers, the hummable theme song was their first introduction to country music. Flatt died in 1979.

As rock `n’ roll threatened country music’s popularity 50 years ago, Flatt and Scruggs became symbols of traditional country music. They went their separate ways in 1969.

Before that, their song “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” was played in the 1967 movie “Bonnie and Clyde” and enhanced its status as a bluegrass standard. It had been recorded in 1949.

Scruggs‘ use of three fingers _ instead of the limited clawhammer style that was once prevalent _ elevated the banjo from a part of the rhythm section to a lead instrument that was as versatile as the guitar and far more flashy. He is credited with helping create modern country music with a string-bending style of playing.

He was a four-time Grammy winner.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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