Earl Scruggs Center to open in 2014

Earl Scruggs CenterThe City of Shelby, NC has given a lot to the rest of the US. A handful of NASCAR drivers, NFL and MLB players, a notorious bank robber and a sitting US Senator all hail from this town of just over 20,000 residents.

The world of music has also profited richly from Shelby natives, including country star Don Gibson, and the world-changing banjo man, Earl Scruggs. Starting next year Destination Cleveland County, a public/private partnership tasked with increasing tourism locally, will open a museum dedicated to Scruggs’s memory and music, just as they did in 2009 with a Don Gibson Theatre.

The Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby, NC in the Spring of 2013The Earl Scruggs Center will be housed in the former Cleveland County Courthouse, a fully-renovated historic building built in 1907. In addition to exhibits of Earl’s instruments and memorabilia in the rotunda, the Center will offer meeting space in its Great Hall on the second floor, which once served as the courtroom. This room will be available for rentals and can be purposed for weddings, business meetings, school/civic functions and the like.

The first exhibit, Music & Stories from the American South, will be open in December of this year, with a Grand Opening scheduled for January 11, 2014.

Annmarie Reiley-Kay, curator of the Earl Scruggs Center, with a banjo that had belonged to SCruggs's grandfatherVisitors will see a number of instruments from the Scruggs family collection, once belonging to Earl, his grandfather, and his dad, brothers and sons. A short film introduces Earl and his family, along with a history of Cleveland County. Other first floor exhibits expand on that history from the Battle of Kings Mountain during the Revolutionary War to the heyday of the textile industry when Earl worked in the mills, to most recent times as the South and Earl’s music changed and took shape.

Emily Epley, Executive Director of the Earl Scruggs Center, tells us that almost all of the $6.5 million budget has been raised through donations, with an ongoing campaign that seeks to have all the funds on hand for a debt-free launch. This budget includes the costs for building renovation as well as exhibit design and development, furniture/fixtures/equipment, and a hedge towards opening year operations and marketing.

“It has been amazing to see the collaboration of the citizens, the city and the county to pull together to create this unique destination which is poised to became a national and international destination. We have folks coming from Japan and South Africa in the coming months and can’t wait to welcome the world to the community where Earl was born.”

Plans for the Center began before Earl passed, and he was very supportive of the efforts to see it built. Speaking for the family, his son Gary said that they all share in the excitement about the Grand Opening.

“My father fully endorsed DCC’s determination and efforts to establish a world-class facility in Shelby’s venerable ‘Old Courthouse,’ and items of historical significance in his life and career will be on display. The Earl Scruggs Center will be a fun and educational experience for people of all ages.”

Jody Rainwater, Everett Lilly, Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Art WootenThe Grand Opening on January 11 will feature a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony, followed by an open house with children’s activities. Later that evening, a special program, Remembering Earl: Music & Stories, will be hosted at nearby Shelby High School. The program will include performances from Earl’s sons Gary and Randy, along with Vince Gill, Travis Tritt, Sam Bush, Rob Ickes, and Jim Mills. In addition to many of the songs and tunes associated with Earl Scruggs, they will share remembrances of the great man himself.

More details on the Earl Scruggs Center and the Grand Opening events can be found online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.