|Horace Scruggs - 2006 Heritage Bridge Recipient
|Horace Scruggs, a lifelong resident of Cleveland County, played guitar for nearly eighty years. Along the way, he was an influence to, and mentor for several generations of musicians. Horace starting playing at age seven, as playing partner to brother Earl after the days of working the family farm. While it would not be right to say Horace taught Earl all he knows, it is also true that together they perfected the rhythm and timing that became the Scruggs trademark. As boys, they would start at the back of the house with their backs to each other, and while playing Sally Goodin' would start walking towards the front.
If they weren't in perfect time together when they met, they would turn around and repeat the process until they got it right. Wearing a path around the old home place (which still stands near the Broad River Greenway) they most certainly did get it right.
Although Horace never made his living as a musician, he certainly had the opportunity. Being Earl's brother, he was in jam sessions through the years with folks like Bobby Osborne, Marty Stuart, Del McCoury or John Hartford. At one back stage session, no less a critic than Bill Monroe singled him out for his rhythm playing, proclaiming “that's the way it needs to be.” In spite of his more famous connections, though, Horace was always equally at home playing with his less well known Cleveland County friends who loved to pick bluegrass music, (at least if they kept good time.) The famous still call too, though, and Little Roy Lewis always asks Horace to join him on the stage when he plays shows in the area. A lot of folks wondered why Horace never went on the road. Once I asked him, and his reply was simply, “Well, I always had a job to do.”
That he did. When their father died, Junie, Horace, and Earl took on the responsibility of managing the family farm. Music was important, but survival was imperative, and Horace and his brothers kept the farm going, but continued to play after they had the chores completed. Horace married Maida at age nineteen, and soon after served in WWII. For a while, responsibilities precluded playing much, but after the war the music resumed.
Horace became a bit of a country renaissance man. His lessons learned on the family farm, combined with his war time experiences, yielded expertise in a variety of disciplines, and fueled the home grown ingenuity that was typical of what Tom Brokaw called “our greatest generation.” Horace not only plays the best bluegrass rhythm guitar around, but can build furniture, repair clocks, rebuild Volkswagen cars, knows how to use dynamite to set pecan trees, and built his own home without the benefit of contractors, electricians or the likes of such. He was the go-to man for Gardner Webb University for years, doing everything from maintaining the steam plant to driving the bus for the ball teams and the choral ensemble, and served Crawley Hospital with similar versatility. Throughout it all, he continued to play with all the local pickers, folks like Leonard Causby, Hubert Green, the Brooks and Ramsey brothers, and Dan Padgett. And who could forget the late Jerry Edmunson, another fine banjo man from these parts? Horace was equally comfortable playing in a Nashville jam session, but never wanting to stray far, and enjoying first rate music right here in Cleveland County , he never left home. I'm sure Horace shares the spirit of this award with all the musicians in the county he has played with through the years. In spite of the fact they all could not be individually named, there were many who contributed to the preservation of traditional music he has enjoyed so much.
Nearing retirement, and at an age when many would not want to be bothered by young musicians, Horace again answered the call. “We hear you can play bluegrass music, can we come down to the house and pick?” Horace passed it on, and served as mentor to musicians half his age, making sure everyone played in time, and reminding them to stay close to the roots of the music. He anchored several bands in the area, including River Bend, New River , and finally, FlintHill, which was named for his home community, and in honor of Horace. He was featured on two CDs, “Rock Candy Days,” and “ Heartbreak Highway .”
Like George P. Hay of the Grand Ole Opry, Horace made sure everyone would “keep it close to the ground, boys.” If you strayed too far from tradition, Horace would give you a look that let you know that it sounded too much like rock ‘n' roll. He became the patriarch of the Cleveland County bluegrass scene. I only have to hear his son Elam, or mine, Rob, play a guitar G-run to know of Horace's permanent influence.
As a young man, I often wondered why Horace never hit the road. As I get older, home seems to mean even more than ever, and I think I understand. Like he said, he always had a job to do. Perhaps part of that may have been to be here at home. I'm sure musicians often dream of a bigger stage, and the opportunity to belong to the world. The musicians of Cleveland County are thankful that Horace dreamed of home, though. Instead of belonging to the world, Horace chose to belong to us, and we are thankful for all the years he has played music and lived and worked here in Cleveland County .
- by Dr. Bobby Jones
The Festival's first ever award, in 2005, went to career musician, teacher, and guitar maker Ray Ledford of Lawndale for his contribution to the art of sound in Cleveland County and beyond. The 2006 award went to Horace Scruggs, a Cleveland County native who played guitar for nearly 80 years and was an influence to, and mentor for several generations of musicians. The 2007 Heritage Bridge Award was presented to Frank Love, Jr., long time Cleveland County resident, trumpet player since the 8th grade and ambassador to Big Band Music. The 2008 Heritage Bridge Award was presented to Harold Williamson of the New Wondering Souls.
2005 Ray Ledford
2006 Horace Scruggs
2007 Frank Love, Jr.
2008 Harold Williamson
2010 David Lee
2010 Myrtle Irvin Green
2011 Dan X. Padgett
2012 Dr. Bobby
2013 Charles Kendrick
2014 David E. Wilson
2015 R. C. Nanney