2003-07-17 / Arts & Entertainment

Trio Of Legendary Pickers To Perform On PBS Special

Trio Of Legendary Pickers To Perform On PBS Special

Trio Of Legendary Pickers To Perform On PBS Special

Bluegrass masters (left to right) Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs take center stage on upcoming Thirteen/WNET show. Les LeverettBluegrass masters (left to right) Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs take center stage on upcoming Thirteen/WNET show. Les Leverett

To the delight of bluegrass fans everywhere, American music legends Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs joined forces last December to perform together for the very first time. Calling themselves The Three Pickers, the trio played to a sold-out house at the R. J. Reynolds Auditorium in Winston Salem, North Carolina, beguiling the crowd with such favorites as "Foggy Mountain Top," "Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms" and "Feast Here Tonight." That historic evening is captured in all its down-home glory in The Three Pickers: Legends of American Music, premiering Monday, July 28 at 10 p.m. (ET) on Thirteen/WNET New York’s GREAT PERFORMANCES on PBS (check local listings).

Dropping by, fiddle in hand, is multi-Grammy winner Alison Krauss ("Baby, Now That I’ve Found You"), to reprise "Down in the Valley," from the feature film 0, Brother, Where Art Thou? Originally popularized by Doc Watson - who learned it from his grandmother - the number is transformed here with a cappella simplicity by Krauss, Watson and Skaggs.

"I’m humbled to be one of the pickers on this project," says Skaggs, an eight-time Grammy winner, who, like many in his field, began his career as a child performer. By the age of 10, he had already performed on stage with three of the most important bluegrass acts of all time, Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, and the Stanley Brothers. As a major country music star in the ‘80s, he drew on his bluegrass heritage to transform old tunes into a streak of country hits. "I’ve played with Earl some down through the years, but to get to actually do a project with him and Doc Watson, I’m so honored and so blessed."

Watson, at 80 the senior member of the trio (Scruggs is 79, Skaggs, 49), is as famous for his rich baritone voice as his virtuoso picking. His vocalizing in the trio’s "Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down" and the Carter Family favorite, "Storms Are on the Ocean," stands high among the evening’s many highlights, as does his haunting contribution to "Banks of the Ohio." He is the recipient of six Grammys and one of the most beloved figures on the bluegrass circuit.

Long a legend in bluegrass since his work with Bill Monroe’s band in the mid-’40s, Earl Scruggs invented a three-finger style of banjo playing known worldwide as "Scruggs Picking." In 1948, he and Lester Flatt formed Flatt & Scruggs, perhaps the most famous popular bluegrass band in history. The Earl Scruggs Revue, a band he created in 1969 with his sons, electrified bluegrass and combined it with new music forms. A three-time Grammy winner, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the recipient of a National Medal of Arts Award, he was honored this year with a star in The Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Produced and directed by multi-Emmy winner Jim Brown (American Roots Music: The Weavers - Wasn’t That a Time!; A Vision Shared - A Tribute to Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly), The Three Pickers: Legends of American Music was recorded at R. J. Reynolds Auditorium, Winston Salem, North Carolina, December 7, 2002. Ricky Skaggs was music producer. Other musical highlights include the trio’s all-guitar version of "Who Will Sing for Me?" and the telecast’s opening segment, in which Scruggs, Watson and Skaggs play individually with their own groups: Earl Scruggs with Family and Friends, Doc Watson accompanied by grandson Richard Watson, and Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder.

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