This is the legendary banjo that Earl obtained in a swap with Don Reno in 1949, a 1930 Gibson Granada, which he used shortly after taking ownership for the initial recording of Foggy Mountain Breakdown with Lester Flatt. Typically the Granada model was gold plated, but Scruggs had sent it back to Gibson for replating a few years after he got it, and had it nickel plated with parts he took from his RB-11. It is believed that the gold was damaged in storage from a cake of rosin left in the case.
When Gibson returned the banjo, they had replaced the fingerboard as well with the then-current Bow Tie inlay pattern. That original neck, which had been thinned down at Earl’s request, warped a few years later, and a new neck made by J.W. Gower was installed with the Hearts & Flowers pattern so long associated now with Earl Scruggs. But throughout this process, the tone ring, rim, and resonator were from the original Granada.
It has been donated to the Hall of Fame by Earl’s grandchildren, Jaime, Jesse, and Lindsey Scruggs, who attended Monday’s celebration of the acquisition. Other items from the Scruggs estate were also given to the Museum, including documents from the long careers of Earl, his wife, Louise, who managed Flatt & Scruggs, and his sons Randy and Gary Scruggs, plus archival recordings and other memorabilia.
During Monday’s event, which was hosted by Vince Gill, music was provided by The Earls of Leicester, Sierra Ferrrell, and Alison Brown, who performed Earl’s Breakdown on Earl’s Granada. For that tune the Museum brought out a number of instruments that had been used by Flatt & Scruggs, including Lester Flatt’s D-28, Josh Graves’ Dobro, Paul Warren’s fiddle, and Curly Seckler’s mandolin.
Video of the entire presentation, with the musical performances, has been made available by the Hall of Fame.
The Hall has also released a number of photos from Monday’s celebration, taken by Jason Kempin for Getty Images and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
All hail Earl Scruggs!
Special thanks to Steve Huber for information shared in this article.