He studied piano for seven years and guitar from the age of ten. In 1970 he played on Yusef Lateef's album Suite 16; he then toured with George Benson, played on Benson's recording White Rabbit (1971), and in 1973 joined his group. After playing electric guitar with Return to Forever on a tour of the USA in 1974 he ceased touring for a period and from 1976 made recordings as a leader, while continuing to work occasionally as a sideman and as a guest soloist. One on One (1979), an album recorded in collaboration with Bob James, received a Grammy Award. Klugh's early style was strongly influenced by the country-music guitarist Chet Atkins and George Van Eps; later he forged a lucid, melodic style that combined elements of mainstream jazz and rhythm-and-blues.
As leader: Earl Klugh (1976, Blue Note LA596G); Living inside your Love (1977, Blue Note LA667G); Finger Painting (1977, Blue Note LA737H); with B. James: One on One (1979, Col.-Tappan Zee FC36251); Heart String (1979, United Artists LA942H); Dream Come True (c. 1979, United Artists LT1026); Nightsongs (c. 1983, Capitol ST12372); Soda Fountain Shuffle (c. 1985, Warner Brothers 25262)
As sideman: Y. Lateef: Suite 16 (1970, Atlantic 1563), including Michelle; G. Benson: White Rabbit (1971, CTI 6015)
H. Nolan: "Earl Klugh: Man of the Moment," Down Beat, xliv/4 (1977), 19
S. Bloom: "Earl Klugh: Lucking out in the Material World," Down Beat, xlvii/3 (1980), 20 [including discography]
B. Milkowski: "Earl Klugh: Melody Maker," Down Beat, l/10 (1983), 14 [including discography]
J. Ferguson: "Earl Klugh: Nylon String Pop with Taste and Elegance," Guitar Player, xix/8 (1985), 54 [including discography, transcrs.]
Patrick T. Will