NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – MAY 22: (L-R) Jerry Douglas, Sierra Ferrell, Vince Gill, Alison Brown, Charlie Cushman, Shawn Camp, Jeff White, Daniel Kimbro, Johnny Warren, VP of Museum Services at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Michael Gray and CEO of Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Kyle Young attend the celebration of the donation of Earl Scruggs’s Gibson RB-Granada Mastertone Banjo to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s permanent collection on May 22, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)

This afternoon, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum celebrated the donation of legendary musician, bluegrass pioneer and Country Music Hall of Fame member Earl Scruggs’s storied Gibson RB-Granada Mastertone banjo to the museum’s permanent collection.

Scruggs played the iconic banjo throughout his more than 60-year career, including in concerts, on TV sound stages and in the recording studio with Flatt & Scruggs and the Earl Scruggs Revue. The banjo can be heard on Scruggs’s famous composition “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” by Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs & the Foggy Mountain Boys – showcasing his innovative three-finger picking style that would influence generations of musicians and expand the possibilities of the instrument across the world. The Gibson banjo remained Scruggs’s primary instrument until his passing in March 2012.

The celebration of this monumental gift featured performances illuminating Scruggs’s influential career. Guests on hand to perform included:

  • The Earls of Leicester, with “Salty Dog Blues” and “Rollin’ In My Sweet Babies Arms”
  • Sierra Ferrell, with “Before I Met You”
  • Alison Brown performed “Earl’s Breakdown” on Scuggs’s donated Gibson banjo. She was joined onstage by the Earls of Leicester in reuniting and playing four other original instruments used by Flatt & Scruggs, including Lester Flatt’s Martin D-28 guitar from the museum’s permanent collection.
In addition to performing, the Earls of Leicester served as the backing band throughout the event. The band features an all-star lineup of musicians: Jerry Douglas (dobro), Shawn Camp (lead vocals and guitar), Jeff White (mandolin), Johnny Warren (fiddle), Daniel Kimbro (bass), and Charlie Cushman (banjo).

Vince Gill, Country Music Hall of Fame member and president of the museum’s board, opened the ceremony. He thanked the Scruggs family for their generosity and offered his perspectives on the banjo and its donation. “It’s so valuable to the history of our music, and the history of Earl and his family,” he said.

Museum CEO Kyle Young shared stories of Scruggs’s musical impact and the significance of the instrument, which will now be preserved in perpetuity by the nonprofit museum and held in the public trust. Scruggs’s banjo, previously on loan, joins an elite list of historical instruments donated to the museum’s collection over the years, including Mother Maybelle’s Gibson L-5 guitar, Bill Monroe’s Gibson F-5 mandolin, Lester Flatt’s Martin D-28 guitar, Cowboy Jack Clement’s Gibson SJ-200 guitar and more.

“These artifacts are unique historical treasures,” said Young. “They connect us to the lives of creative geniuses who forged the enduring sounds of our music. Today, we are grateful and elated to celebrate the donation of another such treasure ­– Earl’s Gibson RB-Granada Mastertone banjo ­– an instrument made iconic by the creative power of the master musician who wielded it.”

Earl’s grandchildren, Jaime, Jesse and Lindsey Scruggs, who joined together to donate the banjo to the museum, were in attendance. Lindsey Scruggs spoke of Earl’s legacy on behalf of the family, offering thanks to the museum for its stewardship of the country music story, as well as the seminal instruments that continue to influence musicians across generations. The Scruggs family also donated many other historic items to the museum’s collection, including important artifacts and documents that chronicle the legacy of Earl, his beloved wife and pioneering business manager, Louise, and the successful musical careers of Earl’s children, Gary and Randy Scruggs. Items include a parlor guitar owned by Earl’s father, Louise’s fold-out desk from childhood, as well as audio and video recordings, among other items.

Prior to Brown’s performance with the Earls of Leicester, Jerry Douglas spoke about the importance of the banjo’s donation and the original Flatt & Scruggs’ instruments being reunited again on stage for the first time in more than 50 years. “These are instruments that are the reason why I play music at all,” said Douglas.

Following the ceremony, Scruggs’s Gibson RB-Granada Mastertone banjo, was returned to the museum’s galleries. The banjo is on display in the museum’s Precious Jewel core exhibition, alongside several other iconic instruments.