In early 1969, Earl Scruggs formed the Earl Scruggs Revue….which consisted of two of his sons, Randy (guitar) and Gary (bass)…..and later Vassar Clements (fiddle), Josh Graves (Dobro) and Scruggs’ youngest son, Steve (drums)….as seen in this video herewith….while playing live at Austin City Limits.
On November 15, 1969, Scruggs performed live with the newly formed group on an open-air stage in Washington, D.C. at the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam…..as Scruggs was one of the few bluegrass or country artists to give support to the anti-war movement. The Earl Scruggs Revue gained popularity on college campuses, live shows and festivals….and appeared on the bill with acts like Steppenwolf, The Byrds and James Taylor…..as they recorded for Columbia Records and made frequent network television appearances though the 1970’s…..when their album I Saw the Light with a Little Help from my Friends featured Linda Ronstadt, Arlo Guthrie, Tracy Nelson, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. This collaboration sparked enthusiasm by the latter to make the album Will the Circle be Unbroken….to which Earl and Louise Scruggs made phone calls to eminent country stars like Roy Acuff and “Mother” Maybelle Carter to get them to participate in this project to bring a unique combination of older players with young ones. Bill Monroe refused to participate saying he had to remain true to the style he pioneered, and this “is not bluegrass”….but regardless, the album became a classic, and was selected for the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry of works of unusual merit.
Scruggs had to retire from the road in 1980 due to back problems, but the Earl Scruggs Revue did not part ways until 1982….and despite the group’s commercial success, they were never embraced by bluegrass or country music purists. Scruggs remained active musically and released The Storyteller and the Banjoman with Tom T. Hall in 1982…..along with a compilation album Top of the World in 1983. In 1994, Scruggs teamed up with Randy Scruggs and Doc Watson to contribute the song “Keep on the Sunny Side” to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country. In 2001, Scruggs broke a 17-year personal album hiatus with the album Earl Scruggs and Friends….which featured Elton John, Sting, Don Henley, Johnny Cash, Dwight Yoakam, Billy Bob Thornton and Steve Martin…..which includes the song “Passin’ Thru“….as written by Johnny Cash and Randy Scruggs. He also released a live album The Three Pickers with Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs….while being recorded in Winston-Salem in December, 2002.