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Bluegrass Legend Earl Scruggs Dead at 88

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Earl Scruggs performs during the 2011 Newport Folk Festival at Fort Adams State Park on July 30, 2011 in Newport, Rhode Island. 

The country music world is mourning the loss of one of its greats.

Legendary banjo player Earl Scruggs died of natural causes in a Nashville hospital Wednesday. He was 88 years old.

Scruggs first found fame with guitarist Lester Flatt in 1948 when the pair formed the Foggy Mountain Boys, later known as Flatt & Scruggs. Their single "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" enjoyed huge crossover success when it was featured in 1967's Bonnie and Clyde. (The duo also received widespread attention for recording The Beverly Hillbillies' theme song.)

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Though Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs parted ways over creative differences in the late 60s, Scruggs continued to meet with huge success as a solo artist, collaborating with artists like The Byrds and Elton John. The North Carolina native and Flatt were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985.

Once called the "Babe Ruth of Banjo" by country crooner Porter Wagoner (who also said Scruggs was "the best there ever was and the best there ever will be"), actors, artists, and singers alike are stunned by the loss of the icon. Hank Williams Jr. was among those who sent his wishes to the Scruggs family, and Steve Martin–who made a guest appearance on Scruggs' 2001 "Earl Scruggs and Friends"–wrote that Scruggs was "the most important banjo player who ever lived."

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Scruggs is survived by his two sons Gary and Randy. A memorial service is scheduled to take place Sunday at 2 PM at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.

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