Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown (Paperback)

The Making of an American Classic (Music in American Life)

By Thomas Goldsmith

University of Illinois Press, 9780252084782, 200pp.

Publication Date: September 13, 2019

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (9/30/2019)

List Price: 19.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Recorded in 1949, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" changed the face of American music. Earl Scruggs's instrumental essentially transformed the folk culture that came before it while helping to energize bluegrass's entry into the mainstream in the 1960s. The song has become a gateway to bluegrass for musicians and fans alike as well as a happily inescapable track in film and television. Thomas Goldsmith explores the origins and influence of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" against the backdrop of Scruggs's legendary career. Interviews with Scruggs, his wife Louise, disciple Bela Fleck, and sidemen like Curly Seckler, Mac Wiseman, and Jerry Douglas shed light on topics like Scruggs's musical evolution and his working relationship with Bill Monroe. As Goldsmith shows, the captivating sound of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" helped bring back the banjo from obscurity and distinguished the low-key Scruggs as a principal figure in American acoustic music.Passionate and long overdue, Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown takes readers on an ear-opening journey into two minutes and forty-three seconds of heaven.

About the Author

Thomas Goldsmith is a music journalist. For more than thirty years, he has worked both in daily newspapers in North Carolina and Tennessee and as freelance writer. He is the editor of The Bluegrass Reader, winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association's best journalist award.

Praise For Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown: The Making of an American Classic (Music in American Life)

"Thoroughly researched, elegantly written, this is a superb study of a tune, a man, and the creation of a highly distinctive American musical style. Loaded with information and interpretation, its warm personable style makes for a compelling and insightful read."—Douglas B. (Ranger Doug) Green

"A couple of biographical books on Earl Scruggs have come out, but none are as informative and fun-to-read as this one." --Inland Northwest Bluegrass Music Association

"A fascinating read! Goldsmith tells how Earl Scruggs used his unique artistic vision to invent a musical language understood and embraced by performers and audiences alike, reviving the five-string banjo to leave an enduring mark on American popular music."--Neil V. Rosenberg, author of Bluegrass Generation: A Memoir

"A wonderfully written and engaging story that any music fan would enjoy." --Music Fest News

"Remarkable . . . This book should prove indispensable to students of the banjo, whether raw beginners or ultra-advanced. It should have similar appeal to dedicated bluegrass fans who want to take a deep dive into the banjo sound, style, and technique that Scruggs made not only famous, but timeless and legendary." --Bluegrass Unlimited

"A highly readable portrait of the man, the song, the times, and the music. . . . For lovers of Earl Scruggs and bluegrass music, Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown will become essential reading." --Ted Lehman, No Depression