Earl Scruggs Center Announces: Addition of Earl Scruggs’ personal Jim Faulkner-built Mark V “Ruben” banjo



The Earl Scruggs Center is proud to announce the addition of a historically significant instrument custom built for and owned by Earl Scruggs to its exhibits. A display highlighting the Jim Faulkner-built Mark V “Ruben” banjo, prominently featured alongside Earl Scruggs Revue era memorabilia, opened to the public on Friday, August 26. The banjo is on long-term loan to the Center by instrument collectors Aaron and Darlene Carr from West Monroe, Louisiana.


Luthier Jim Faulkner became well known for his replica pre-war Gibson necks and his perfected flat-head tone rings, which were used on Gibson’s top-of-the-line Mastertone model banjos in the 1960s. In 1970-1971, Faulkner custom built the Mark V “Ruben” top-tension banjo for Earl Scruggs, who played the instrument in shows with the Earl Scruggs Revue.


“The Faulkner Mark V ‘Ruben’ Banjo is more than just a banjo that was owned by Earl Scruggs, it is a symbol of the mutual respect shared between two masters of their craft,” said Zach Dressel, Assistant Director for the Earl Scruggs Center. “We are extremely honored to tell this story as it provides more context to the character of our namesake while at the same time giving proper attention to a person who earned respect in the world of banjo building.”


The instrument remained in the Scruggs family’s possession until 2018, when it was sold through Gruhn Guitars in Nashville. Noam Pikelny, renowned banjo player and admirer of top-tension banjos, owned the instrument for some time. The banjo is currently owned by Aaron and Darlene Carr, who have generously provided it for display at the Earl Scruggs Center.


“Earl was starting a new era of music with his sons when Faulkner built this banjo for him and he took it with him into that new era,” said Aaron Carr. “When we visited the Earl Scruggs Center, we were impressed and felt like the banjo belonged there. We are proud to have this unique instrument displayed for others to enjoy.”


Earl’s personal mark appears in several ways on the instrument. He engraved his name on various parts of the banjo and evidence of wear is visible. In addition, the display includes the original instrument case and ancillary objects used by Earl.


“The personal touches all over this instrument make it even more impressive and special,” said Darlene Carr. “The use of the instrument is obvious from the wear on the back of the resonator. This wasn’t just one of many banjos that Earl owned, it was one that he played.”


Visitors can see the Faulkner Mark V “Ruben” banjo in the Turning Road Gallery, which explores Earl’s expanding musical tastes after Flatt & Scruggs parted ways and his influence on music and the world. The Earl Scruggs Center, located in Shelby, NC, is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am – 4 pm, with extended hours until 6 pm on Wednesdays. Learn more about the Earl Scruggs Center by visiting www.earlscruggscenter.org.