The Scruffs are an American pop music group originally founded by writer/guitarist/vocalist Stephen Burns, guitarist David Branyan, and drummer Zeph Paulson in Memphis, Tennessee circa 1975. Though the line up has changed many times over the years since then, The Scruffs have continued to released a number of records, up to and including a pending release in 2011 entitled Kill! Kill!
The constant figure throughout has been singer/songwriter and guitarist Stephen Burns, with a revolving band of musicians in support through the years. The band originally featured Rick Branyan on bass, who left the band in 1976. From 1976 through 1977, Bill Mathieu replaced Branyan on bass. During this iteration, the band recorded the songs (most penned by Burns or Burns co-writing with David Branyan) that later became its first LP album, and released "Break the Ice" as a single on Power Play records. "Break the Ice" received local airplay in Memphis.
After Mathieu left the band in 1977, Rick Branyan rejoined the group. This iteration of The Scruffs re-recorded its material at renowned Ardent Studios in Memphis and released its first LP album in 1977 on Power Play records, entitled Wanna Meet the Scruffs??, which remains a cult classic in the genre of power pop.
The group later relocated to New York before disbanding.Many of the members sought various careers such as Rick Branyan who became a Latin teacher at a local private high school in Memphis. David Branyan pursued a solo career recording again at Ardent Studios, before attending Columbia and Yale universities, with some recordings released later in 2000 in France and in the U.S. in 2002 on the Teen Line anthologies.
Although from Memphis, The Scruffs projected an English pop style and were influenced by The Beatles and The Kinks, among others. The Scruffs were occasionally accompanied on stage by former Box Tops and Big Star members, and fellow Memphis power-popper Alex Chilton. Although they officially disbanded in 1979, a second album was released after 20 years (although recorded in 1979-80) titled TeenAge Gurls. This release was accompanied by the first CD release of "Wanna Meet the Scruffs?" Additional collections include: Angst, The Early Years, a collection of earlier recordings and MidTown, a release of recordings made by Stephen Burns and various musicians during the 1980s.
During the late 1990s, Burns moved for a time to Glasgow, Scotland, where he hooked up with local musicians to release Love, The Scruffs and ''Swingin' Singles''. Although now principally living back in the United States, he continues to work in, variously, Glasgow and Edinburgh as well as Memphis. This has resulted in several further releases (five in all) by The Scruffs from around the turn of the millennium right up to date (2011), many of which have received favourable reviews.
Many of these more recent releases have been heavily influenced by Scottish based (if not exclusively Scottish born) musicians. From "Love, The Scruffs" onwards, contributors have included Bobby Kildea, Stevie Jackson and Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian renown, as well as Zachary Ware, guitarist with The Proclaimers, and Francis MacDonald of Teenage Fanclub and BMX Bandits fame, along with Glasgow and Edinburgh based Simon Cottrell and Mark Rodgers providing the bass and drums on many recent tracks and Gary Thom providing drums on "Swingin' Singles," and significant contributions from Giles Lamb and Paul Napier for piano and guitar parts respectively, and Peter Shand and Mick Cooke (also of Belle and Sebastian) for string arrangements. Many, many others have also contributed, particularly Geoff Allan at CaVa Studios in Glasgow, and Adam Hill and Lucas Peterson at Ardent Studios, Memphis (with additional thanks to Jody Stephens and John Fry in particular at Ardent).
In 2007, a new Scruffs album, was released entitled Pop Manifesto, which received many favourable reviews. Following this, in 2009, the Scruffs reconvened, first in Glasgow and later in Memphis, to record a new album, called "Conquest." This was released in January 2010 to, once more, many favourable reviews. Encouraged by this, The Scruffs reconvened in Edinburgh, Scotland in early 2010 to commence rehearsals for their forthcoming release "Kill ! Kill !." Following this, in November 2010, The Scruffs reconvened at Ardent Studios, Memphis, to record that album, subsequently mastered at Abbey Road Studios in London, England in February 2011, and it includes a special guest appearance on one track from Peter Buck of R.E.M.
The release date is to be confirmed as at February 2011. For this latest release, The Scruffs principal line up is Stephen Burns (Guitar, Vocals, Producer), Adam Hill (Guitars, Backing Vox, Engineer, Mixing, additional Bass guitar), Bobby Kildea (Bass, Backing Vocals and Percussion) and Mark Rodgers (Drums and Percussion), with the Vest Brothers (also from Memphis) providing backing vocals and guitar, and occasional contributions from other Memphis session players.