Earl Scruggs, who as a child developed the distinctive picking style that forever changed banjo playing, and whose association with Lester Flatt cemented bluegrass music's place in popular culture, died Wednesday of natural causes at a Nashville hospital. He was 88.

For many of a certain age, Scruggs' banjo was part of the soundtrack of an era on "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" -- the theme song from the CBS sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies," which aired on CBS from 1962 to 1971 and for decades afterward in syndication.