"Foggy Mountain Breakdown" is a bluegrass music instrumental written by Earl Scruggs and first recorded in 1949 by the bluegrass artists Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys.[1] It is a standard in the bluegrass repertoire.

The 1949 recording features Scruggs playing a Gibson Granada five-string banjo.

It is used as background music in the 1967 motion picture Bonnie and Clyde, especially in the car chase scenes, and has been used in a similar manner in many other films and television programs, particularly when depicting a pursuit scene in a rural setting.[2] In 1968, both the 1949 Mercury records version and a newly recorded Columbia version were listed at one position of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #55.

In 2002, Scruggs won a Grammy award for a 2001 recording which featured Steve Martin on second banjo, Albert LeeTravis Tritt, and Vince Gill on guitars, Marty Stuart on mandolin, and Paul Shaffer on piano, among others.[3]

In 2004, it was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.[4]

Because of its ubiquity and its status as a favorite tune at bluegrass jams and concerts, guitar and mandolin players commonly learn solo breaks to this song that closely mirror the original banjo version. Many five-string banjo players[who?] consider "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" one of the instrument's fastest and most rhythmically challenging pieces. Only very skilled five-string banjo players can play it at the same speed and beat that Scruggs can.[citation needed]

The instrumental is related to Bill Monroe's "Bluegrass Breakdown" which Scruggs helped write. It featured the same opening double hammer-on, but "Bluegrass Breakdown" goes to an F major chord whereas Foggy Mountain Breakdown goes to the G major chord's relative minor, an E minor chord. The most recognizable part of this tune is the slide on the fourth string of the banjo from the first fret to the second forming the E minor chord, and the slow backward roll that immediately follows.

Chart performance[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (1967-8) Peak


U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 58
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 55
RPM Top 100 Singles 90
UK Singles Charts 39