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May 26, 2022 - 1:59:21 AM
195 posts since 2/22/2019

Other than Gibson, what other brands did Earl have to choose from for most of his career?

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 05/26/2022 14:09:23

May 26, 2022 - 2:56:18 AM

192 posts since 12/19/2017

I know that he played a Vega. He probably tried everything out there but only played professionally the banjo that produced the “sound”.

May 26, 2022 - 4:48:53 AM
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2934 posts since 12/31/2005

Throughout his career, his choices were virtually endless. We know he played a Jim Faulker banjo on the road in his post F&S years. I have heard there was discussion one time about an endorsement deal with Deering, and that he was favorably impressed by their banjos (I think this was early '80s). In the '70s, there were a number of small builders (e.g. Rual Yarborough) who could have built for him if he had wanted. I also have some vague recollection that he might have played an Ode at one point, but the '80s are fuzzy to me for reasons we don't need to go into here.

If you are thinking '40s timeframe, there were not a lot of five string resonator models from anyone on the market. There was probably not enough of a market for boutique builders we have today. Even Gibson wasn't making many post war and pre war the volume was more four strings. And you didn't shop for a banjo then like you do now. You let people know you wanted one and, through word of mouth, people would tell you what furniture store or barber in what town might have had one. (Think of all the false starts driving to another town just to learn that the banjo was a tenor). Musicians basically dealt between themselves, which is how "the trade" between Scruggs and Reno went down (with Ralph Stanley present).

Gibsons were expensive even back in the day. $75 in the thirties and forties was a lot of money. It has always surprised me that there were as many owned in the rural South and throughout Appalachia as there was. That is probably why the provenance of Mr. Scruggs' 9584-3 includes so many professionals, although many of them were not exactly raking in the big bucks back then.

May 26, 2022 - 7:10:58 AM
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1079 posts since 12/12/2005

Brian summed it up well in his post. I know sometimes he traveled with an Ome back in the early days of the Revue.
He did like Neat banjos. He liked many builders, but nothing could take place of his trademark Granada in sound and playability. I remember him talking about his Vega a few times with me. It was a nice he said, but just didn't have the sound of his Gibson. He would keep it on the Flatt & Scruggs bus and if someone wanted to see it, he would show them. He had a busted hide head on it so he could not play it! I remember how excited he was when I told him I was an artist endorser for Recording King. He really liked how nice they were. He was impressed with the sound and how it played. Funny, I never asked him alot about Paramount's. Quess I never thought of it.

Edited by - Randy Escobedo on 05/26/2022 07:21:16

May 26, 2022 - 12:50:53 PM

1876 posts since 1/28/2013

Vega had an Earl Scruggs Model, but I can't imagine why he put his name on it, I guess all he cared about was the endorsement check. He did'nt even like it himself.

May 27, 2022 - 8:24:48 AM

229 posts since 7/22/2012

His Vega is now at the American Banjo Museum in Oklahoma City, you can see it very soon after you come through the doors.


Article from some years ago:

Edited by - Banjfoot on 05/27/2022 08:26:48

May 27, 2022 - 8:41:43 AM



309 posts since 4/11/2022

Originally posted by woodchips

I know that he played a Vega. He probably tried everything out there but only played professionally the banjo that produced the “sound”.

I bet he could get that "sound" even on the cheap asian models of today.

My wife reminds me that when I want the same golf clubs the pros use, that the pros could use mine and make them play just fine.... which is why I still have a crummy set of clubs.  :)  I hate it when she thinks logically.

May 27, 2022 - 9:53:33 AM

14764 posts since 10/30/2008

During the 1930s and 40s when Earl was "coming up" as a pro banjoist, he "could have" played any number of Vegas that were in production (and popular) at the time. Stringbean and Grandpa Jones played them.

There were the few rare Epiphone and Paramount banjos around in 5 string, even a few B&Ds I suppose.

Gibson had a big advantage because they had really cultivated a dealer network that included the South. I'm not sure the other big banjo makers ever did that. Gibson instruments were sold in all kinds of southern dealerships including furniture stores.

In the 1930s Fisher Hendley, Snuffy Jenkins, Mac Crow and Wade Mainer were the big Gibson examplars. Also, Uncle Dave Macon and Sam & Kirk McGee-the Boys from Sunny Tennessee were Gibson endorsers (in the catalogs). So Earl had some top pro examples, and Gibsons were probably the most available pro-level 5 string banjos in the South.

May 27, 2022 - 12:03 PM
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2089 posts since 1/10/2004

I think Earl first learned on an old family open-back that probably came out of a Wards catalog or something. He could play anything. The Vega did seem to be just an endorsement/appearance deal, as there is little evidence Earl really liked or played that model very much, because you just weren't going to get anything like that Gibson sound out of it. In the 50s and 60s he was on the side a trader and dealer in old pre-war Gibsons and even the bowtie models at times, and he might occasionally play other such banjos on the road. He seemed to like or at least be open to trying lots of other banjos. In later years as Gibson finally kind of got their crap together in the early-mid 80s he finally became an endorser of Gibson banjos and of course had his own models, an opportunity long squandered by Gibson in decades past. He pretty much remained aligned with Gibson for the rest of his career until they ended production.

I've always felt the interesting thing about Earl's Granada is that it kind of puts the lie to the absolute need or obsession with a pristine original 5-string pre-war banjo. Ignoring just their sheer scarcity and the fact that we're just not all going to ever own or even get to play one, Earl's banjo was anything but all-original pre-war during his career. And it's the HOLY GRAIL banjo! Sure it started out as a high end pre-war 5-string Mastertone, but only the most major components of the pot remained intact. Almost from the earliest days of Earl's career it was heavily modified with post-war and after market parts and hardware, and Earl seemed to have no qualms about experimenting with it in ways that would make most of us just sick to try on an original pre-war. It's a very special banjo, but it was re-necked and restored multiple times with subtle but detectable changes to its performance and character. At the end of the day Earl could sound like Earl on just about anything, and he probably tried them all.

Edited by - Bradskey on 05/27/2022 12:03:53

May 27, 2022 - 12:35:38 PM

5883 posts since 12/20/2005

I am sure Earl had every opportunity to try almost every banjo ever conceived. And he was perhaps enthusiastic to try whatever he could.
Still, I can’t help but think of one he would not have had a chance to play.
And I could be wrong.
I think if he ever had a chance to try a Stromberg cuppophone, he would have thought it to be a great banjo. But Stromberg did not make any 5-strings, at least that I am aware of.
I think he would have kept it if that opportunity had ever happened.
I don’t think he would have sold the Granada, but I do think he would have kept the Stromberg.
I have some Gibson’s and I love them.
I’ve had 3 Stromberg’s and still have 2. They are fantastic banjos.

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May 27, 2022 - 7:13:45 PM

978 posts since 6/6/2008

If Earl had played a fisher-price, people would be clammering for one. For those who don’t recognize it, fisher price is a toy manufacturer.

IMO- Earl could pull tone out of any banjo because of his right hand.

May 27, 2022 - 8:06:53 PM

5883 posts since 12/20/2005

I’m not going along with that first sentence, even though I have heard it countless times.
That Granada is indeed an amazing banjo. It ain’t hype.
And it certainly ended up in the right hands.

May 28, 2022 - 2:15:25 AM
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10140 posts since 1/22/2003

Here Jens Kruger says that Earl Scruggs used to play a Vega openback at his home when sitting on the couch (at 6:20):

May 30, 2022 - 5:45:20 AM
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304 posts since 12/22/2006

Earl Scruggs was visible to me with his Granada and the Vega Earl Scruggs model.

But why not look here:
George Gruhn sold instruments out of the Earl Scruggs collection. It´s an interesting bunch of instruments.

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