'Beverly Hillbillies' Singer Dies

Jerry Scoggins is shown in an undated photo provided by his family. Scoggins, who sang "The Ballad of Jed Clampett," which introduced the comical clan on "The Beverly Hillbillies," died of natural causes Thursday, Dec. 9, 2004, at his home in Los Angeles. He was 93. (AP Photo/Family Handout) AP

Jerry Scoggins, who sang "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" that introduced the comical Clampett clan on "The Beverly Hillbillies," has died. He was 93.

Scoggins, who was born in Texas and began his career there, was the lead singer of the Cass County Boys. He 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 on weekends when he was asked to record a theme song for the pilot of the television series starring Buddy Ebsen.

Bluegrass stars Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs played guitar and banjo on "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" while Scoggins sang the lyrics.

The song and series were instant hits, and the ballad made the national hit parade in 1963. It was No. 44 on the charts in 1962.

The series, which ran on CBS from 1962 to 1971, was ranked as TV's No. 1 program in its first two seasons and drew up to 60 million viewers at its peak. The show was only canceled as part of CBS' effort to erase its image as a "rural" network

Scoggins was retired when he read in 1993 that 20th Century Fox was planning a movie version of the series. He called the studio and was put through to music supervisor Steve Smith, who told him, "Criminy I didn't know you were still around."

The studio had wanted Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson to sing the theme for the movie, 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 Los Angeles Times in 1993.

Scoggins estimated that by the movie he had sung "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" more than 1,000 times since first recording it.

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.

Gene Autry changed the group's name to the Cass County Boys when he hired them in 1946 for his Melody Ranch radio program. They worked with Autry for 12 years on radio and television, and performed in 17 of his movies.

The group also recorded and performed on TV with Bing Crosby in the early 1950s.

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

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