Gary Scruggs passes

Gary Scruggs, Grammy winner, songwriter, musician, and eldest son of the late Earl and Louise Scruggs, passed away on December 1, 2021. He was 72 years of age. 

Gary Eugene Scruggs who was born on May 18, 1949, in Knoxville, Tennessee, played electric bass, harmonica, guitar, keyboards, and percussion, and worked as a producer (Waylon Jennings) and arranger. 

Naturally, he was immersed in the music world from a young age, and learned to play the guitar and bass early on. He sang harmony in various sessions for the Flatt and Scruggs’ album Changin’ Times when just 17 years of age. 

He was an integral part of The Earl Scruggs Revue, formed when he and his two brothers, Randy and Steve, joined their dad to start the group at the beginning of 1969. The band was extremely busy for about 15 years, being popular on college campuses, TV shows, and at festivals. 

This informal rendition of You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere features Gary Scruggs sharing lead vocal duties with Roger McGuinn


Earl Scruggs Revue with The Byrds (1971)

Prior to that, Gary and Randy, who were working as a duo, recorded some tracks with columnist for the Nashville Tennessean Elmer Hinton, with Gary composing the theme song Down To Earth after the name of Hinton’s long-standing homespun column. 

The brothers had two country rock LPs released on the Vanguard label. Gary’s song The Lowlands is on the second of these ….

The Lowlands was memorably re-recorded by Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out on their 2015 release, It’s About Tyme.

Gary Scruggs was responsible for convincing his father to go to see the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band at their first Nashville concert, which led to his inclusion on the first Will the Circle Be Unbroken album. John McEuen wrote the tune Togary Mountain for Gary after his mother told McEuen, “When they were kids, Gary always got up and stomped out of the room if Flatt & Scruggs were on TV and they played Randy Lynn Rag, and would say ‘daddy never wrote a song for me!!”’

His association with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band continued as one of the backing singers on the song Will The Circle Be Unbroken on the Circle II album, and with the inclusion of The Lowlands on Circle III album…. 

Gary Scruggs retired from touring in the mid-1980s, but continued his work as a songwriter, recording with a wide variety of artists and writing (or co-writing) many of the hundreds of songs that he composed over the course of his career. Among those recorded by others were Speed of Life (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band); Can’t Have One Without The Other (Wildfire); Lazarus (Blue Highway); Heartbreak Hill and Fallin’ (both recorded by Valarie Smith); True Love Never Dies (Del McCoury); Country Road (Dolly Parton), This Is My Prayer For You (Reba McEntire); Long Stretch Of Lonesome (Patty Loveless); and the #1 hit Right Hand Man for Eddy Raven. 

He is known for his work on Great Performances (1971), The Late Show with David Letterman (1993), and Country’s Greatest Stars Live: Vol. 1 (2010) also.  

In 2001 he was a Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance – Foggy Mountain Breakdown from Earl Scruggs and Friends. 

Gary was a prime source for the book, Earl Scruggs – Banjo Icon, written by Gordon Castelnero and David Russell. He was also responsible for the recently released, The Earl Scruggs Banjo Songbook.

R.I.P. Gary Scruggs 

A Celebration of Life funeral service will be held on Wednesday, December 8, 2021, 2:00 p.m. in the chapel of Spring Hill Funeral Home. Visitation will be on the same from 12:00 noon until time of service. Burial will follow in Spring Hill Funeral Home and Cemetery on Gallatin Pike in Nashville. 

Memorial contributions may be made to the Country Music Hall of Fame or the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby, North Carolina.

A Discography 

Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs

  • Changin’ Times (Columbia CL-2796/CS-9596, released January 6, 1968)

Gary & Randy Scruggs

  • All The Way Home (Vanguard VSD-6538, 1970) 
  • The Scruggs Brothers (Vanguard VSD 6579, 1972)

Earl Scruggs And The Earl Scruggs Revue

  • I Saw The Light With Some Help From My Friends (Columbia KC 31354, 1972) 
  • Live At Kansas State (Columbia KC 31758, 1972)
  • The Earl Scruggs Revue (Columbia KC 32426, 1973)
  • Where The Lilies Bloom (The Original Soundtrack Recording) (Columbia KC 32806, 1974) 
  • Rockin’ ‘Cross The Country (Columbia KC 32943, 1974)
  • Anniversary Special Volume One (Columbia PC 33416, 1975)
  • Volume II (Columbia PC 34090, 1976)
  • Family Portrait (Columbia PC 34346, 1976)
  • Strike Anywhere (Columbia PC 34878, 1977)
  • Live! From Austin City Limits (Columbia PC 34464, 1977)
  • Bold And New (Columbia JC 35319, 1978)
  • Today And Forever (Columbia JC 36084, 1979)
  • Country Comfort (Columbia JC 36509, 1980)
  • Super Jammin’ (Columbia FC 39370, 1984)

Earl Scruggs

  • Earl Scruggs And Friends (MCA Nashville 088 170 189-2, August 28, 2001)

Bill Monroe

  • With Body And SoulBill Monroe And Friends (MCA MCA 5435, January 12, 1984)

Elmer Hinton

  • Down To Earth (Geordie Records GLP 1000, mid 1960s) 
Gary, Earl, and Randy Scruggs

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.