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The Untold Stories Behind ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’

Book cover showing a young Earl Scruggs with playing a banjo.
Courtesy of University of Illinois Press

Two minutes and 40 seconds of lightning-fast picking propelled bluegrass music into the mainstream. "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" written by Earl Scruggs and first recorded by Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys in 1949 helped bluegrass move from a subgenre of country to a popular and recognizable sound for American audiences.

In his new book, longtime music journalist Thomas Goldsmith uses that beloved bluegrass classic as the anchorpoint to explore the history of the genre and of the life of Scruggs himself. Host Frank Stasio speaks with Goldsmith about Scruggs’ role in bringing bluegrass into the mainstream, and how Scruggs’ work ethic and many learned skills broke through hillbilly stereotypes.

Goldsmith will read from his book "Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown: The Making of an American Classic” (University of Illinois Press/2019) on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 2 p.m. at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro and on Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 6 p.m. atMalaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville.

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Laura Pellicer is a digital reporter with WUNC’s small but intrepid digital news team.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.