There is a anecdotal story about the recording of the Beverly Hillibillies
them that you may have heard (or not -- who knows?). As you know, what goes
on in the studio is generally not known outside and both the writers and
musicians who worked on a piece are often mistated -- even in liner notes --
in the interests of commercial expediency. So, here's the story: Howard
Roberts was the top session guitarist of his time, shaing that spot with
Tommy Tadesco, I suppose. The story goes that when Flatt & Scruggs came into
the studio they were given a written score to play from. Earl didn't read
music, so Howard Roberts retuned the banjo to guitar tuning and picked out
the roll. There is no doubt that Howard could have done this. He did many
stranger things. But, even if Earl wasn't a music reader, it stands to
reason that he could work up the scored piece (or a better one) on the spot.
So what gives? Howard Roberts was known as a real gentleman and scrupulously
honest. If this is a story he told, I would have to give it credibility. If
the story emerged as a second or third hand tale about Howard's legendary
talents, it could very well be an exaggeration, a mistaken attribution (e.g.
he really did this on another song), or just one of those rumors that gets
started. I have written to Jay Roberts (Howard's son) and have not received
If you have heard of this tale and have any information on it, I would be
most interested in tracking it down.