J.D. Crowe, Master of the Bluegrass Banjo, Dies at 84

Accolades for Crowe included a Grammy for "Fireball" in the country instrumental of the year category in 1983. An annual Kentucky festival, the J.D. He received the Bluegrass Star Award in 2011, an honorary doctorate from the University of Kentucky in 2012, and a lifetime achievement award from the Lexington Music Awards in 2016. Crowe Bluegrass Festival, is named in his honor.
Testimonials began to come in from the legions of musicians who considered Crowe an influence or hero, including Billy Strings, one of the current popularizers of bluegrass music.
"Nobody ever had the groove, the touch, tone and timing of this man," wrote the band Blue Highway. "Prayers for his family and for the whole Bluegrass community. This one really hurts."

We will all miss Mr. The friendship and inspiration he provided us will never be forgotten. Crowe will always live on. One of the finest to ever pick up a five-string banjo and one of the coolest cats of all time, his banjo is on some of our favorite bluegrass records. James Dee Crowe." As long as there’s bluegrass, the spirit and impact of J.D. From leading the Kentucky Mtn Boys and the New South, working with Jimmy Martin as a teenager, playing with the legendary Bluegrass Album Band and more, his picking has been a part of the soundtrack of all of our lives. Please keep his family, friends, and fans in your prayers in the coming days and weeks. Wrote the Grascals in a post, "We lost a true American treasure today.
To me, the Crowe banjo tone is flawless. Heaven sure is building up a heck of a Bluegrass band. We'll miss you, Crowe! See you up there." Like many, I was inspired by Earl Scruggs to play the banjo. Crowe on banjo and Tony Rice on guitar. Some of the greatest bluegrass that will ever be made had J.D. Wrote Adam Lee Marcus on Facebook: "The banjo I have played since 2004 is a J.D. Crowe model Gibson 'Blackjack.' I didn't choose it because I wanted to sound like him, but to sound like myself on a banjo built to sound like his. But when I heard Crowe play, I heard how percussive a banjo could sound. Flawless timing, tone, and tasteful playing.


Bluegrass Today's John Lawless wrote: "Everyone in bluegrass music was fond of J.D. Crowe was a carnival ride. Two generations of pickers have studied his playing, and even those who are taking the three finger style in new directions, like Béla Fleck, Tony Trischka, and Noam Pikelny, will readily acknowledge Crowe as a major influence and an unmistakable stylist in his own right. His playing was fun, lighthearted, and even frivolous at times, all coming from his own distinct personality."” /> If Earl Scruggs was a machine, J.D. Crowe… No one every played bluegrass banjo more passionately, more inventively, or more interestingly than he did. His affable, humble, and fun-loving personality made him everyone’s friend, and any attempts to shower him with praise for his music were always met with deferrals and a bit of embarrassment…
Other well-known musicians who did time as part of the New South over the years included country music legend Keith Whitley, Gene Johnson, Don Rigsby, Richard Bennett, Ron Stewart, Phil Leadbetter and Rickey Wasson.
A week ago, the website Bluegrass Today reported that his son, David, said he was in a rehab center after a brief hospitalization but was expected to be home for Christmas. A cause of death was not immediately given, but Crowe was reported to have been suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
A finer banjo player will be hard to find here but I know Heaven is welcoming this good and faithful servant in with open arms today. Crowe’s passing this morning. Tweeted Donna Ulisse, a country singer-songwriter who has turned to bluegrass, "The wind is whipping up a moan outside my backdoor and I can only imagine that even the sky is sad to hear of J.D. I was blessed to get to know him a little and what a grand gentleman he was."
Crowe, a banjo player who helped define the instrument for generations of bluegrass fans, died Friday, his family announced on Facebook. J.D.
 
The Lexington, Kentucky native's Christmas Eve death made it a blue Christmas for aficionados of bluegrass who remember that another legend of the genre, guitarist Tony Rice, a former member of Crowe's New South, died on Christmas day a year ago. Crowe's death also follows closely on the heels of the passing of another banjo legend, friend and compatriot Sonny Osborne of the Osborne Brothers, who died in October of this year.
Mark O'Connor, the legendary roots fiddler-guitarist, wrote on social media that Crowe was "one of the absolute greats in bluegrass, and a really wonderful mentor to me when I was a young boy coming up." O'Connor was in Crowe's band for just a few weeks in the mid-'70s when he was 14. He was a wonderful mentor, and what a great bandleader in the music… "He would take me out and buy me White Castle burgers after our shows with the New South until I couldn't eat anymore. and no better bluegrass banjo player in the history other than Earl Scruggs."
In 1961, Crowe formed the Kentucky Mountain Boys, which included Doyle Lawson and Larry Rice. Crowe & the New South, as they became one of the key bands in the history of bluegrass, especially after recording the 1975 album officially called "The New South" and unofficially known among the cognoscenti as "0044," after its Rounder Records catalog title. In 1971, the group's name changed to J.D. The band at that time included a future who's who of bluegrass: Rice on guitar, Ricky Skaggs on mandolin, Bobby Sloane on bass and Jerry Douglas on guitar. Crowe started out with Jimmy Martin, joining that legend's band, the Sunny Mountain Boys, in 1956 when he was 19.
What can I say? He had tone, taste and TIMING like no other. "Woke up this morning to hear the sad news about J.D. He was an absolute legend," Strings wrote. Crowe. "He will be remembered as one of the greatest to ever play bluegrass music. He was just the best bluegrass banjo player out there, man." The space in between the notes he played and the way he rolled them out just kept the band driving, running on all cylinders like a V8 engine.
Prayers needed for all during this difficult time," family members said in a post on his fan club page. "This morning at around 3 a.m,, our dad, JD Crowe, went home.
"We lost one of the greatest banjo players ever to pick up the five early this morning," tweeted Bela Flek. "Farewell and thank you, JD Crowe."
Crowe embarked on a farewell tour in 2012 but had continued to perform at shows and festivals until COPD reportedly forced him to give up performing for good in 2019.

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