September 24, 2023

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Bluegrass Titan Earl Scruggs’ Song Catalog Sells to Peermusic

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Building on an association that has spanned more than 75 years, peermusic has acquired the rights to the catalog of legendary bluegrass and country pioneer Earl Scruggs

As part of Flatt & Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys, Scruggs introduced some of bluegrass’s most enduring, iconic songs, including “Earl’s Breakdown” and “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” which Scruggs wrote and recorded in 1949 and then gained a new life following its prominent placement in the 1967 film Bonnie And Clyde.

Scruggs, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and a multiple Grammy Award winner, and peermusic founder Ralph S. Peer were close friends for decades until their deaths, with peermusic serving as the publisher of Scruggs’ music from the start of his career. 

Peermusic has also purchased the majority of the song catalog of Scruggs’ eldest son, Gary. The purchase price for both deals was not disclosed. Combined, the deal includes 348 copyrights from the father and son. The acquisition is a mix of U.S. and worldwide rights with peermusic also now serving as the global administration for compositions covered by both purchase agreements. Earl Scruggs died in 2012, while Gary Scruggs died in 2021.

“It’s a rare opportunity to acquire these incredible catalogs of songs in this competitive music rights landscape, but what makes this most meaningful to us is the decades-long relationship that peermusic has enjoyed with Earl Scruggs and Gary Scruggs,” said Kathy Spanberger, president and COO of peermusic’s Anglo American Region, in a statement. “This deal really exemplifies everything a relationship between a songwriter and a publisher should be. Earl and peermusic worked together successfully for decades to share his music with the world, and peermusic continues that tradition with the songs of Gary Scruggs.”

Courtesy of peermusic

“The Scruggs are multi-generational music royalty who have worked with the Peers, a multi-generational family of music publishers since Day One. The history here is incredible,” added Michael Knox, president of peermusic Nashville. “There are few artists that have defined an entire genre the way that Earl Scruggs and Gary Scruggs have with bluegrass or that so popularized a single instrument across genres as Earl did with the banjo. We’re delighted to continue our work with the Scruggs family and to represent their interest in some of country music’s most beloved songs.”

Earl Scruggs began his career in 1945, playing banjo with Bill Monroe. It was there that he met Lester Flatt with the two forming their own group a few years later. As Flatt & Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys, the act became one of the preeminent bluegrass bands in the country, playing Carnegie Hall and Newport Folk Festival, and sharing stages with Joan Baez, Johnny Cash and Maybelle Carter. 

Earl Scruggs launched his solo career in 1969, enlisting Gary and his other son, Randy, to join him in the Earl Scruggs Review. The Scruggs played a crucial role in the creation of the seminal Nitty Gritty Dirt Band project, 1972’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken, which featured titans of bluegrass and country. 

Gary Scruggs, who worked with a number of artists including Waylon JenningsBob Dylan, Vince Gill and Rosanne Cash, wrote a number of compositions for the Earl Scruggs Review, including “Bound in Jail All Night Long,” “I Just Can’t Seem to Care,” and “Wooden Nickels,” as well as a number of songs he and Randy Scruggs performed as The Scruggs Brothers. 

“We are now the third generation of the Scruggs family to be working alongside the team at peermusic. Our grandfather trusted peermusic as his music publisher from the beginning of his career and the team at peermusic has been like a family to us throughout these many years,” said Gary’s sons, Jesse and Jaime Scruggs, in a joint statement. “Keeping these song catalogs with peermusic is an easy decision for us because we know how much they have done to support The Scruggs family—and they know these song catalogs inside and out. We’re thrilled to have these songs looked after by Kathy, Knox and the peermusic team.”

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