Award Winning Randy Scruggs Passes

Guitarist, producer, songwriter and studio owner Randy Scruggs has died at age 64. He died Tuesday, April 17, after a brief illness.

Scruggs was the CMA Musician of the Year in 1999, 2003 and 2006. He won four Grammy Awards for his instrumental work — “Earl’s Breakdown” (2001), “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” (1998), “Soldier’s Joy” (1994) and “Amazing Grace” (1989).

Among the many artists he has produced are Waylon Jennings, Levon Helm, Emmylou Harris, Diamond Rio, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, John Denver, Toby Keith, New Grass Revival, Dwight Yoakam, Leftover Salmon, Lisa Loeb, Steve Wariner, Loretta Lynn, Russ Taff and Alison Krauss.

Scruggs was an in-demand session musician who played on hundreds of Nashville recording sessions. He can be heard on records by such Hall of Fame artists as Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, George Strait, Bobby Bare, Charlie Daniels, Randy Travis, Vince Gill, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Ricky Skaggs and Tom T. Hall, as well as the artists he produced.

As a songwriter, he earned accolades for a number of hits. He and Earl Thomas Conley co-wrote the star’s “Your Love’s On the Line,” “Don’t Make It Easy For Me,” “Angel in Disguise,” “Chance of Lovin’ You” and “Love Don’t Care (Whose Heart it Breaks)” in 1983-85.

Scruggs also co-wrote the Sawyer Brown 1986 hit songs “Shakin’” and “Out Goin’ Cattin,’” Billy Joe Royal’s “Love Has No Right” (1989) and Deana Carter’s “We Danced Anyway” (1997) and “There’s No Limit” (2002).

Born in 1953, Randy Scruggs was raised to be a musician alongside his older brother Gary and younger brother Steve (1958-1992) by their legendary parents Earl Scruggs (1924-2012) and Louise Scruggs (1927-2006). Randy was a guest on the Flatt & Scruggs TV series at age 9. He participated in his first recording session at age 13.

Randy and Gary formed a rock duo and recorded two LPs for Vanguard Records in 1969-70. The brothers then formed the country-rock band The Earl Scruggs Revue with their dad. That act had several chart singles and albums in 1970-1980.

After the family band drew to a close, Randy Scruggs quickly became a first-call session musician. Among his earliest star clients were Linda Ronstadt, Marty Robbins and Willie Nelson.

He retained his status as a top session guitarist for decades. He recorded with everyone from Larry Gatlin, Tracy Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver, John Hartford, Moe Bandy and Vern Gosdin to Rosanne Cash, Pam Tillis, Marty Stuart, the Dixie Chicks, Bruce Hornsby, Miranda Lambert and Wilco.

During the 1980s and 1990s, more than 100 of his songs were recorded by major artists. Among these were Gene Watson, Martina McBride, Patty Loveless and The Seldom Scene.

Beginning in 1979, Randy Scruggs owned and operated his own studio in Berry Hill. Scruggs Sound hosted two of the Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken projects. In fact, 1989’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken II earned producer Scruggs a CMA Album of the Year award.

Others who have used his studio include Don Williams, Jason & The Scorchers, Bobby Vinton, Charley Pride, Tanya Tucker, Andy Williams, Ronnie Milsap and Anne Murray.

As a producer, he continued to make news with the all-star AIDS-awareness album Red, Hot & Country (1995) and the Keith Whitley tribute album (1994).

In 1998, Scruggs issued his debut solo CD. Released by Warner Bros. Records, Crown of Jewels featured a bevy of guest artists, including Travis Tritt, Joan Osborne, Trisha Yearwood, Lee Roy Parnell and John Prine. The charting single from the collection was “It’s Only Love,” a collaboration with Mary Chapin Carpenter.

In recent years, Randy Scruggs has been contributing to projects by such up-and- coming acts as Mo Pitney, Elizabeth Cook, the Pistol Annies, Stoney LaRue and Wade Bowen.

He recently sold Scruggs Sound Studios to Canadian singer-songwriter Johnny Reid, who reportedly plans to maintain the facility’s musical legacy.

He is survived by his wife Sandy, his daughter Lindsey and his brother Gary. There will be no funeral service. A memorial event is being planned for Randy Scruggs at a later date. Contributions in his name may be made to MusicCares or the T.J. Martell Foundation.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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