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NC banjo master Earl Scruggs reached an audience of millions Friday. Ask Google why.

He’s been dead six years years now, but North Carolina-born banjo master Earl Scruggs found a new audience of millions on Friday.

Google featured Scruggs as a Google Doodle, the images that regularly mark special occasions on the search engine site. Scruggs would have turned 95 last Sunday, and Friday is the fifth anniversary of the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby.

The Doodle depicts Scruggs in a red jacket and white hat holding a banjo, with an animated inset that shows the three-finger picking style that Scruggs made famous. A click on the Doodle brings up search results about Scruggs.

“It really captures the essence of Earl, especially depicting his hands playing the banjo,” said Scruggs Center executive director Mary Beth Martin.

Google contacted the center about a month ago to seek permission to post a depiction of Scruggs, Martin said. The center’s Twitter account has blown up with shared tweets about the Doodle, she said, including one by comedian and skilled banjo player Steve Martin.

Born in the Cleveland County community of Flint Hill, a few miles from Shelby, Scruggs joined Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys in 1945, becoming part of the seminal band in what came to be called bluegrass music. Scruggs later teamed with guitarist and singer Lester Flatt in a band that was widely popular in the 1950s and 1960s.

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Vintage footage of Earl Scruggs is displayed on an old televison at the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby Friday, January 3, 2014. The museum will open Saturday, January 11, with a grand opening celebration featuring old-fashioned games, music and entertainment. TODD SUMLIN tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

Flatt and Scruggs, and bluegrass, reached a nationwide audience when the band recorded the theme song to the 1960s TV show “The Beverly Hillbillies.” The banjo-driven tune “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” was featured in the soundtrack of the 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde.”

The Scruggs Google Doodle will be seen by online searchers in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, Google said. It will also join an online archive where, Martin said, “Earl’s Google Doodle will always live there.”

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