Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Earl Scruggs Center - Shelby, N.C.

The Town of Shelby;  home to the Don Gibson Theater; has a new attraction at the old County Courthouse. The long awaited Earl Scruggs Center has opened. Saturday marked the trial run with a "sneak preview" allowing a limited number of visitors to enter on a "timed" basis for about 45 minutes at 15 minute intervals. Nobody was disappointed.

The town of Shelby is usually a bit sleepy on weekends, but with the opening of the Earl Scruggs center that is about to change. The Old County Courthouse sits in the center of downtown Shelby and is surrounded by restaurants and shops, all of whom will be happy with the additional traffic the Center will create.

The Center is well organized, beginning with a short 15 minute film about Earl Scruggs and his rise to fame. Lester Flatt is equally represented in the film, which is as it should be. The two names go together like salt and pepper.

If you love guitars and banjos, then this is the spot for you. Gibson's and Martin's abound; some are even made with gold fittings. These are priceless instruments with a solid history of having changed the direction of a musical genre, even while creating a new one in the hands of Earl Scruggs, with his pioneer style of banjo picking which would set him apart from all the rest. His Foggy Mountain Breakdown is as potent today as the day it was first written over 50 years ago.

The statue above is life sized and sports one of Mr. Scruggs hats as well as a real banjo. If it were done in color you would feel like you were meeting the great man himself. The whole museum is filled with interactive exhibits accessible by using the "ear buds" given at the door. This allows the visitor to roam at will, plugging in wherever their desire might take them.
For instance, there is a room devoted entirely to Mr. Scruggs radio days, where you can plug in and listen to the early broadcasts which came to define his style. Then you can move on into the TV room and plug in there. 

But, for me at least, the best part was the plethora of musical instruments once held by the gods of bluegrass, including the 1970 electric Ibanez shown below which belonged to Mr. Scruggs son. The history behind each and every one of the instruments is breathtaking, considering that they have all been well traveled, bringing the gift of music to millions worldwide.

The only sad part of the event for me was that these instruments, encased in glass, will sing no more. But then again, out of the hands of their original owners, could they ever sing as beautifully again?

For more about the great musicians from North Carolina, visit the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in Kannapolis. Their website is at; http://northcarolinamusichalloffame.org/

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