Speaker of the House Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger both announced on Twitter last night that a budget deal has finally been worked out between the House and Senate. WRAL’s Mark Binker reports that “the $21 billion spending plan will provide slightly more than a 7 percent pay raise for public school teachers” without any cuts to teaching assistant jobs. Final details should be expected this coming week.
That’s good news for teachers, who will get their largest raise in nearly a decade, and for legislators eager to return home to their districts — because, well, they’ve been a long time working it out.
And so to mark this momentous milestone in budget negotiations, we offer up The Foggy Mountain Boys performing their catchy 1964 bluegrass single “Working It Out” for our Sunday Morning Music selection today. According to the Encyclopedia of Country Music, The Foggy Mountain Boys are viewed by music historians as being one of the premier bluegrass groups in the history of the genre. It was founded by guitarist Lester Flatt and North Carolina’s own Earl Scruggs on the banjo.
Earl Scruggs was born in Flint Hill, North Carolina, near Boiling Springs and nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Cleveland County. Mr. Scruggs started playing the banjo at the age of 4, and by the age of just 10 he had already developed his own unique three-fingered technique, later known as “Scruggs-Style Picking.” His name has become synonymous with the banjo; his pioneering style has influenced a countless number of musicians around the world and he has helped to define the sound of 20th-century country music. He passed away two years ago at the age of 88.
Mr. Scruggs and Mr. Flatt won their first Grammy Award in 1969 for “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” which they first recorded in 1949. Mr. Scruggs received a second Grammy Award for a 2001 performance of the song (with Steve Martin on second banjo) on the Late Show with David Letterman. The rendition was from his album Earl Scruggs and Friends, featuring collaborations with artists that included Martin, Vince Gill, Albert Lee, Paul Shaffer, Leon Russell, Marty Stuarts, John Fogerty, Elton John, Sting, Johnny Cash, Don Henley, Travis Tritt, and Billy Bob Thornton. “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” has become a standard of bluegrass music.
Scruggs and Flatt are perhaps best known to general audiences for “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” the beloved theme song of the long-running 1960′s TV show The Beverly Hillbillies, which they both appeared on several times.
Mr. Scruggs was inducted into Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985 and the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009. In 1994, he was awarded the prestigious National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the people of the United States. The country singer Porter Wagoner once said of Scruggs: “Earl was to the five-string banjo what Babe Ruth was to baseball. He is the best there ever was. And the best there ever will be.”
Mark Binker covers state politics for WRAL in Raleigh. Follow him on Twitter @Binker.