Multi-award-winning guitarist, producer, songwriter and studio owner Randy Scruggs died Tuesday, April 17th, following a brief illness, according to Music Row. He was 64.
A four-time Grammy winner who earned trophies for his instrumental work from 1989 to 2001, Scruggs was named CMA Musician of the Year in 1999, 2003 and 2006. As a producer he led recordings by Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris, Levon Helm, Toby Keith, Alison Krauss and many others. The staggering list of artists on whose records he played included Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, George Strait, Bobby Bare, Charlie Daniels, Randy Travis, Vince Gill, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Ricky Skaggs, Tom T. Hall, Billy Joe Shaver, John Hartford, Vern Gosdin,Rosanne Cash, Pam Tillis, Marty Stuart, Bruce Hornsby, Miranda Lambert, Wilco and the Dixie Chicks.
Randy Scruggs was born in 1953, the younger brother of musician Gary Scruggs and older brother to Steve Scruggs, who died in 1992. Their parents were banjo great Earl Scruggs and pioneering business manager Louise Scruggs, who passed away in 2012 and 2006, respectively. At just 9 years old, Scruggs appeared alongside his father and partner Lester Flatt on the pair’s popular syndicated TV series. Only four years later he was participating in his first recording session.
As a rock duo, Randy and Gary Scruggs recorded two albums for Vanguard Records in 1969 and ’70, then formed the progressive country-rock band the Earl Scruggs Revue with the elder musician at the helm. A 1979 single by the group, “I Could Sure Use the Feeling,” peaked in the Top 30.
In the early Eighties, when Earl Thomas Conley became the first-ever artist to top the country chart with four consecutive singles from the same LP, three of those songs were co-written by the artist with Scruggs. The pair also notched two additional Number Ones as co-writers. Others who cut his songs included Sawyer Brown (“Shakin’,” “Out Goin’ Cattin'”), Billy Joe Royal (“Love Has No Right”) and Deana Carter (“We Danced Anyway” and “There’s No Limit”). In the Eighties and Nineties, more than 100 of his songs were cut by major acts from Martina McBride to bluegrass band the Seldom Scene.
The 1989 recording of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken II, recorded at the musician’s Scruggs Sound facility in Nashville, earned him another CMA award, for Album of the Year. Don Williams, Jason & the Scorchers, Charley Pride, Tanya Tucker, Andy Williams, Ronnie Milsap and Anne Murray were among those who also cut material there.
In 1998, Reprise Records released the exceptional all-star album Crown of Jewels. Credited as Scruggs’ solo effort, the LP featured contributions from several artists with Emmylou Harris, Iris DeMent, John Prine, Joan Osborne, Trisha Yearwood, Amy Grant, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Delbert McClinton and Earl Scruggs among them.
Scruggs’ guitar playing can be heard on the Johnny Cash: Forever Words project and on recent recordings by Loretta Lynn, Mo Pitney, Pistol Annies, Kellie Pickler, Bobby Bare and many others.
Scruggs is survived by his wife Sandy, his daughter, Lindsey, and his brother, Gary. No funeral service is planned but details of a memorial event are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Contributions in Randy Scruggs’ name may be made to MusicCares or the T.J. Martell Foundation.