It was the breakneck banjo tune that became a song for the ages.

Recorded in 1949, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” changed the face of American music. Earl Scruggs’ instrumental essentially transformed the folk culture that came before it while helping to energize bluegrass’ 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 (“Bonnie & Clyde”) and television (“The Beverly Hillbillies”).

Former Tennessean music writer Thomas Goldsmith explores the origins and influence of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” against the backdrop of Scruggs’ legendary career.

Interviews with Scruggs, his wife Louise, disciple Béla Fleck and sidemen like Curly Seckler, Mac Wiseman and Jerry Douglas shed light on Scruggs’ musical evolution and his working relationship with Bill Monroe. 

Louise Certain Scruggs was born in Grant in 1927 and graduated from Watertown High School in 1945. The house she lived in as a girl is known today as the Watermelon Moon Farm on Trousdale Ferry Pike. 

In the mid-1950s, she became the first female manager in the music industry as she became manager and booking agent for Flatt & Scruggs.

Goldsmith is the editor of The Bluegrass Reader and winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s best journalist award.



Thomas Goldsmith, author of “Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” will discuss and sign copies of his book at noon, Oct. 11, at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. He will be joined by banjo player John Hedgecoth. The book is also available online ($19.95 in paperback; $14.95 as an Ebook).

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