Mark Jones and Earl Scruggs
My first experience on the Grand Ole Opry stage was when I was fifteen years old. I had gone down to the Opry with Mom and Dad, who were both playing that night. I was in Earl Scruggs dressing room backstage visiting with a friend of mine, Jody Maphis, who was playing drums with Earl Scruggs, when Earl turned to me and asked me to come out on stage and play with them. He wanted to be able to showcase the different styles of banjo that we played. I played the old clawhammer style and he played the Earl Scruggs finger roll style that he is famous for. I almost fell over. I couldn’t believe that a world renowned picker like Earl Scruggs would ask me, who was just a kid to play on stage along side him. I was so excited. I framed the first dollar that I made and I still have it to this day.
Ed Hyde Offers me a Job
A couple years later, I had begun to take guitar lessons from Ed Hyde, who was a staff musician on the Opry. He brought it to my attention that Curtis McPete, who played with the Willis Brothers, was leaving and going with Danny Davis and The Nashville Brass. The Willis Brothers had been doing the Kelloggs Corn Flakes Commercials, with Curtis on banjo. Ed Hyde asked me if I would be interested in taking Curtis’s place in the commercials.
So I immediately talked my way into a cooperative education class in my high school, that would allow me to leave school at 12:30 every day. I used those sixteen free hours every week to practice my banjo picking. Sixteen hours per week practice for a minute and a half commercial!
My wife asked me tonight, “What subject are you not any good at?”
My reply was, “All of them!”
Everyone in life gets their education in different ways. Mine just happened to be a lot of fun!