Vince, Travis, Marty, Ricky Sing For Louise

This appeared in The Tennessean - February 7, 2006

Yesterday's memorial service for bluegrass music industry pioneer Louise Scruggs, Earl Scruggs' wife, was incredibly powerful, filled with moving music, tears and ... laughter.

Moderator and eulogist Eddie Stubbs, a veteran WSM and Grand Ole Opry announcer, set the tone by saying Louise loved laughter and applause for performers, so mourners should feel free to do both.

Speaker after speaker at the Ryman referred to Louise's monotone speech and her calm, matter-of-fact demeanor. Marty Stuart said he once jumped up and down on the bumper of her vehicle while she was inside, repeating "I love you!" to get a reaction, and he did. Louise, whose expression never changed, cracked the window to say in monotone, "Thanks." A second later, the window cracked again: "I love you too, Marty."

Billy Bob Thornton knew that Louise and Earl loved his movie Slingblade so he walked behind Louise once, got next to her ear and in the unique voice of his character Karl, Billy Bob said, "Boy, that Scruggs feller sure can pick a banjo, cain't he?"

The crowd exploded in laughter, but Billy Bob said Louise, who didn't laugh, had a blank expression when she said, "Billy Bob, that's the funniest thing I've ever heard in my life."

Speaker after speaker also told of Louise's ground-breaking efforts in booking bluegrass, of her love for family, of her love of gathering friends at the Scruggs house for famous pickin' parties.

The most powerful part of the service came when Vince Gill performed "Go Rest High On That Mountain," which Vince wrote for a brother who passed away. That was a song Louise always made Vince play at the pickin' parties.

Louise buried a son, Steve, before she died and Vince said he felt he and Louise had the bond of loss. Vince, tears in his eyes, asked the audience to help him sing and he chocked up several times while performing the song. Ricky Skaggs and The Whites closed the service with the hymn "Farther Along."

Afterward, Louise was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Madison. Pallbearers were Billy Bob, Marty, Eddie, John Carter Cash, longtime family friend Hugh Howell and singers Jon Randall, Travis Tritt and Dwight Yoakam.

By Brad Schmitt

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