Martin leads 30-banjo salute to in­no­va­tor Scruggs

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Chris Tal­bott

NASHVILLE — It was a hard year in the bluegrass world and the loss of icons such as Earl Scruggs and Doc Wat­son hung over the In­ter­na­tional Bluegrass Mu­sic Awards on Thurs­day night.

The Gib­son Broth­ers won en­ter­tainer of the year and joined Ju­nior Sisk & Ram­blers Choice as the only mul­ti­ple win­ners at the cer­e­mony at Ry­man Au­di­to­rium. But the at­ten­tion of most was turned to­ward the pi­o­neers no longer able to at­tend.

An emo­tional Steve Martin paid trib­ute to the late banjo in­no­va­tor Scruggs with a spe­cial 30-banjo salute that in­cluded many of the world’s top five-string play­ers.

The IBMAs also saluted Wat­son and play­ers Doug Dil­lard and Everett Lilly, as well as bluegrass pro­moter and ac­tor Andy Grif­fith, all of whom died in the last year. Wat­son won gui­tarist of the year posthu­mously.

It was the first en­ter­tainer win for The Gib­son Broth­ers, who also took home hon­ours for gospel recorded per­for­mance for Singing As We Rise, with Ricky Sk­aggs. Sisk & Ram­blers Choice won al­bum of the year for The Heart of a Song and song of the year for A Far Cry From Lester & Earl, keep­ing with the night’s un­of­fi­cial theme.

In ma­jor cat­e­gories, top nom­i­nee Rus­sell Moore won male vo­cal­ist of the year, Dale Ann Bradley won fe­male vo­cal­ist, Joe Mullins & The Ra­dio Ram­blers were named emerg­ing artist, Blue High­way won vo­cal group, The Box­cars won in­stru­men­tal group, Lone­some River Band won in­stru­men­tal recorded per­for­mance for An­ge­line The Baker and St. Jude char­ity al­bum Life Goes On won recorded event.

Rob Ickes (do­bro), Stu­art Dun­can (fid­dle), Sammy Sh­elor (banjo), Adam St­ef­fey (man­dolin) and Mar­shall Wil­born (bass) won in­stru­men­tal­ist of the year awards.

And 2012 Bluegrass Hall of Fame in­ductees Doyle Law­son and Ralph Rin­zler were hon­oured as well.

Though the night was full of spir­ited per­for­mances, none could hold up to Martin’s show-end­ing salute to Scruggs. The ac­tor, comedian and mu­si­cian seemed on the verge of tears as he paid trib­ute to Scruggs be­fore invit­ing play­ers in­clud­ing J.D. Crowe, Kristin Scott Ben­son, Sam Bush, show co-host Del McCoury, Law­son, Sh­elor and Tony Trischka and more than 20 oth­ers onto the stage where Scruggs first played his rolling, rol­lick­ing style dur­ing the Grand Ole Opry.

Scruggs’ sons Gary and Randy also were part of the trib­ute.

Martin said in an in­ter­view be­fore the show that he was in­spired by the Kennedy Cen­ter Hon­ors when con­ceiv­ing of the Scruggs trib­ute.

“They like to do these big salutes and I thought why not here at the IBMAs for Earl,” Martin said. “All the banjo play­ers who’ve been in­flu­enced by him, why can’t they all be here and pay trib­ute to him?”

McCoury, in­ducted into the Hall of Fame last year, said he would prob­a­bly not have got­ten into mu­sic had it not been for the Flatt & Scruggs record his brother bought in 1950. The 11-year-old McCoury was trans­fixed by Scruggs’ play­ing.

“I just could not get that sound out of my head,” McCoury said.

Man­dolin player Bush joked he was play­ing rhythm banjo while on stage, but said he felt priv­i­leged to be in­volved.

“I knew Mr. Earl,” Bush said. “It gets real emo­tional as I look at Randy and Gary stand­ing there and how they must feel, and how ev­ery­body loved their dad. He was a true gen­tle­man. No­body’s more de­serv­ing of ac­co­lades than him.”

MARK HUMPHREY / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mu­si­cians fill the stage for the show-end­ing salute to Earl Scruggs at the In­ter­na­tional Bluegrass Mu­sic Awards.

Steve Martin

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