Gary Scruggs, Son of Earl Scruggs and Songwriter, Dies at 72

by Matthew Memrick

Songwriter and performer Gary Scruggs, the oldest son of country music star Earl Scruggs, died last week at 72.

Gary Scruggs played alongside his father, including The Earl Scruggs Revue band. He also performed alongside his brother in the Scruggs Brothers. That band notably played with other big-name acts, including the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. 

According to The Tennessean newspaper, he also won a Grammy for Best Country Instrumental for his “Amazing Grace” recording in 1989.

His father, legendary bluegrass star Earl Scruggs, died in 2012 at age 88. His other brother, Randy, died in 2018.

Gary Scruggs’s cause of death was not available last week. Family members have a funeral service planned for Wednesday in Nashville.

Gary Scruggs Lived A Musical Life

According to his obituary, the musician “grew up surrounded by music’ royalty’, and began playing guitar and bass as a child.”

As a teenager, Gary Scruggs contributed to Flatt and Scruggs’ albums and went on to earn a BA in Philosophy from Vanderbilt University.

Gary Scruggs went on to play with other country artists for the first “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” album in 1972, an album that is in the Grammy Hall of Fame and Library of Congress. Some titans of the bluegrass and country genres such as Roy Acuff, “Mother” Maybelle Carter, Doc Watson, Merle Travis, and many others came together for the album. Gary Scruggs played on several of the tracks on that project.

Gary Scruggs also worked as a backing musician and producer for star Waylon Jennings. The man picked up a Best Country Instrumental Performance Grammy award as part of the Earl Scruggs and Friends’ rendition of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” in 2001. 

After retiring from touring in the 1980s, the musician continued with his love of songwriting and co-wrote many songs. According to Music VF, he penned songs for Tanya Tucker (“Call on Me”) and Dukes of Hazzard star Tom Wopat (“Hey Little Sister”). He also co-wrote songs with Dolly Parton and Marie Osmond.

One notable hit collaboration was “Pushing Up Daisies” for Garth Brooks. Scruggs is survived by his sons, Jesse and Jaime, a niece, and several grandchildren. 

Scruggs’ Family Behind ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Song

Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs performed “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” and it became the theme song for the CBS sitcom from 1962 to 1971.

Initially, Jerry Scoggins sang the tune with Flatt and Scruggs performing the instrumentals. However, listeners heard Flatt’s voice on the single.

Gary Scruggs’ mother, Louise Scruggs, told NPR that the songwriter and sitcom creator Paul Henning found Flatt and Scruggs. The man wanted the duo to do the hit song. 

Notable, Louise Scruggs became the first-ever female manager in the music industry in 1955 when she began managing the group. She died in 2006. 

“He called and wanted Earl and Lester to do the theme music,” she said. “And I turned it down at first because of the word ‘Beverly Hillbillies.’ I didn’t know what connotation that was going to take with country people and didn’t want to offend them. So he said, ‘Well, the premise of this show is that the Beverly Hillbillies are going to always be outsmarting the city slickers.’”