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Scruggs then took up the instrument — he was too small to hold it at first and improvised by setting his brother Junie's banjo beside him on the floor.

He moved it around depending on what part of the neck he was playing.

Everybody's all worried about who invented the style and it's obvious that three finger banjo pickers have been around a long time— maybe since 1840.

But it's my feeling that if it wasn't for Earl Scruggs, you wouldn't be worried about who invented it." At age 15, Scruggs played in a group called The Morris Brothers for a few months, but quit to work in the Lily Textile Mill near his home in North Carolina.

Scruggs was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts; the highest honor in the folk and traditional arts in the US.

Four works by Scruggs have been placed in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Flatt and Scruggs brought bluegrass music into mainstream popularity in the early 1960s with their country hit, "The Ballad of Jed Clampett"—the theme music for the successful network television sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies—which was the first bluegrass recording to reach number one on the Billboard charts.

At age ten, when Scruggs first learned the technique, he recalled that he was at home in his room after a quarrel with his brother.

He was idly playing a song called "Reuben" and suddenly realized that he was playing with three fingers, not two.

An early influence was a local banjoist, De Witt "Snuffy" Jenkins, who plucked in a finger style.

According to banjoist and historian Tony Trischka, "Jenkins came about as close as one could to Scruggs style without actually playing it".

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