December 8, 1962. Clapping, cowbells, an uproarious clamor. Carnegie Hall sounds packed with listeners, warmed by the “opener” Merle Travis and enthralled by stars of television and the Grand Ole Opry, Flatt and Scruggs. The appreciative crowd makes itself known after each solo, joke and introduction. Paul Warren’s smooth ‘n tinged with rosin-y grit chucks and high-flying lines, Uncle Josh’s deep in the cone goodness and the sweet pull of the picked five-string are there. Lester Flatt’s gentle croon and emceeing shepherds the evening in all the right directions. I love this concert recording in parts and whole: the Scruggs-Warren banjo and fiddle duets (“Old Leather Britches”); Uncle Josh’s dobro led instrumentals (“Foggy Mountain Rock”) and his duets with Cousin Jake (“Big Ball in Brooklyn”); the sacred songs (“Let the Church Roll On”) and the voice of bluegrass’s Bing Crosby, Lester Flatt (“I Know What It Means to Be Lonesome”).
The Complete Concert has sat in my CD library quietly for over ten years. I naively thought that my other Flatt and Scruggs studio recordings covered the same period just as well. Now when I listen, I wonder “What if Curly Seckler had been singing tenor instead of Billy Powers?”, “Is it true that Scruggs experts have identified notes they consider mistakes in his playing?” and “What bluegrass band(s) will take up the challenge and produce their own Carnegie Hall recording?”