J.D. Crowe Dies: Bluegrass Legend Remembered as One of the Greatest Ever
Tributes to J.D. Crowe agree on one thing: the International Bluegrass Association Hall of Fame banjo player was among the best to ever pick it. Crowe — founder of J.D. Crowe & the New South — died on Dec. 24 after being hospitalized with pneumonia.
The New York Times shares that Crowe died at his home in Nicholasville, Ky. No cause of death was given, but he reportedly battled chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for several years. NBC News shares that that's what kept him from touring after 2019. His farewell tour came in 2012, but he played select concerts in the years that followed.
Besides being known as a banjo virtuoso, he's best known for bringing together world-class musicians. The New South at times featured Ricky Skaggs on mandolin and tenor vocals, Jerry Douglas on dobro and Bobby Slone on bass and fiddle. Guitar master Tony Rice — who died on Dec. 25, 2020 — was the lead vocalist and guitar player for a group of progressive bluegrass musicians. Keith Whitley would join in the late 1970s. Of this team, Skaggs would enjoy he most commercial success (including the 1985 CMA for Entertainer of the Year), but fans still hone in on the 1975 album J.D. Crowe & the New South (known as Rounder 0044) as a seminal project.
Among the tributes, Billy Strings' was particularly detailed and heartfelt.
"He was an absolute legend. He will be remembered as one of the greatest to ever play bluegrass music. He had tone, taste and TIMING like no other," he wrote on Twitter before adding:
Bela Fleck also had kind words for Crowe, a Grammy Award-winning musician who got his start as a 19-year-old with Jimmy Martin in 1956. A half-decade later he'd form the Kentucky Mountain Boys and then New South in 1971. This band was tremendously influential on today's bluegrass music, as it drew from a wider set of influences than popular bluegrass music that proceeded it. The Grascals recognized this on Instagram with a touching note and photo gallery.
J.D. Crowe was 84 years old at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Sheryl, and their two kids, David and Stacey, as well as one granddaughter.