Your Local News | Allentown, Bethlehem & Easton
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Arts & Culture

Bluegrass Pickers come to Godfrey Daniels to honor Bluegrass pioneer Earl Scruggs

Tony Trischka 01.jpg
Tony Trischka
Tony Trischka

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Bluegrass banjo veteran Tony Trischka will bring a group of hot pickers to the Bethlehem folk club Godfrey Daniels on Sunday night to pay homage to a pioneer of bluegrass banjo.

The show is called EarlJam, and it will feature the music of Earl Scruggs.

In a recent interview, Trischka spoke about the show, his band and his affection for the Lehigh Valley.

  • Tony Trischka, a master of the bluegrass banjo, will return to the Bethlehem folk club Godfrey Daniels on Sunday May 28
  • Trischka leads a bluegrass quintet in a program he calls EarlJam, honoring banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs, who perfected the art form in the 1940s
  • Though bluegrass music has its origins in Kentucky, Trischka said he has a soft spot for the Lehigh Valley, where he began performing with the progressive bluegrass band Skyline in the 1970s

Trischka said the inspiration for his touring show EarlJam came from his discovery of little-known jam session recordings of Earl Scruggs, who is widely credited with perfecting bluegrass style of banjo in the mid-1940s.
That style is now known as "Scruggs style" or three-fingered banjo. Trischka began transcribing those recordings “note for note,” preparing to record a new album featuring some of those songs.

Trischka said he got to know Scruggs, who died in 2012 at the age of 88, and performed and recorded with him.

“He was kind of a shy, very relaxed sort of guy… not an intimidating presence at all."
Tony Trischka about Earl Scruggs

On Trischka's album "Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular (Rounder, 2007)," the two banjo players lay down intricate high-speed harmonies on the song "Farewell Blues," made famous by Scruggs and his partner, Lester Flatt decades earlier.

Trischka said of recording that tune with his banjo hero, "He was kind of a shy, very relaxed sort of guy… not an intimidating presence at all. So it was actually a joyful, relaxed recording session.”

In his Bethlehem concert, Trischka will play with four of the top bluegrass players working today. He’ll be joined by Michael Daves on guitar and vocals, Jared Engel on bass, Brittany Haas on fiddle and Jacob Jolliff on mandolin.

Trischka mentioned in passing that Haas will be shortly joining the Americana supergroup Punch Brothers, headed by mandolin master, Chris Thile.