At the age of 13, Klugh was captivated by the guitar playing of Chet Atkins when Atkins made an appearance on the Perry Como Show. Klugh was a performing guest on several of Atkins' albums. Atkins, reciprocating as well, joined Earl on his Magic In Your Eyes album. Klugh also appeared with Atkins on several television programs, including Hee Haw and a 1994 TV special entitled "Read my Licks". Klugh was also influenced by Bob James, Ray Parker Jr, Wes Montgomery and Laurindo Almeida. His sound is a blend of these jazz, pop and rhythm and blues influences, forming a potpourri of sweet contemporary music original to only him.
Klugh's first recording, at age 15, was on Yusef Lateef's Suite 16. He played on George Benson's White Rabbit album and two years later, in 1973, joined his touring band.
Klugh has recorded over 30 albums including 23 Top Ten charting records – five of them No. 1 - on Billboard’s Jazz Album chart. With 2008’s The Spice of Life, Klugh earned his 12th career Grammy nomination - his second nomination and release on the independent Koch label.