Jerry Scoggins, 93; Sang About a Man Named Jed in ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’

Times Staff Writer

Jerry Scoggins, whose mellow baritone warbled “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” to introduce the eccentric, oil-rich Clampett clan from Bug Tussle in both the 1960s television series and the 1993 motion picture called “The Beverly Hillbillies,” has died. He was 93.

Scoggins, the lead singer of the Cass County Boys, who backed Gene Autry and Bing Crosby in the 1940s and 1950s, died Tuesday of natural causes at his home in Westlake Village.

In 1962, the country and western singer was working as a stockbroker and singing only on weekends when he was asked to record a theme song for a television series pilot starring Buddy Ebsen. In the song, that memorable “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” bluegrass stars Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs played guitar and banjo while Scoggins sang the lyrics.


Both the ballad and the series were instant hits. The theme song, whose phrases are still hummed decades later, made the national hit parade in 1963. The series, which ran on CBS from 1962 to 1971, was ranked as the No. 1 program on TV in its first two seasons and at its peak drew as many as 60 million viewers.

In 1993, Scoggins was a retired octogenarian when he read in Daily Variety that 20th Century Fox was planning a movie based on the popular television series. He called the studio and was put through to music supervisor Steve Smith who said, “Criminy.... I didn’t know you were still around.”

The studio had envisioned Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson singing the theme song, but director Penelope Spheeris held out for Scoggins.

“I wanted to keep as much familiarity in the movie as I could find, and that was a key part: people’s familiarity with his voice,” she told The Times in 1993.

Scoggins estimated that by then he had sung “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” more than 1,000 times since first recording it with Flatt and Scruggs.

Scoggins was born in Mount Pleasant, Texas, and began singing and playing guitar on Dallas radio in the early 1930s. In 1936 he formed the Cass County Kids with John “Bert” Dodson and Fred Martin. Autry changed their name to the Cass County Boys when he hired them for his Melody Ranch radio program in 1946.

The trio worked with Autry for 12 years on radio and television, and performed in 17 of the singing cowboy’s movies. They also recorded and performed on TV with Crosby in the early 1950s.

The Cass County Boys were inducted into the Western Music Hall of Fame in 1996 and received a Golden Boot Award from the Motion Picture and Television Fund.

A widower, Scoggins is survived by two daughters, Judy Headley of Santa Barbara and Jane Kelly of Westlake Village; five grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.

A memorial service is planned for 1 p.m. Friday at Westminster Presbyterian Church. The family has asked that, instead of flowers, memorial donations be sent to the Hospice of the Conejo.