J. D. Crowe – Train 45
Written by The Bluegrass Jamboree on December 27, 2021
J. D. Crowe – Train 45
James Dee Crowe (August 27, 1937 – December 24, 2021), an American banjo player and bluegrass bandleader. He first became known during his four-year stint with Jimmy Martin in the 1950s. Crowe was the leader of the bluegrass group New South from 1971 until his death in 2021.
Crowe was born in Lexington, Kentucky. His first job playing music was given to him by Raymond “Curly” Parker when he was only a teenager.
He began playing the banjo early on and was offered a job with Jimmy Martin’s Sunny Mountain Boys in 1954. He recorded with Jimmy Martin between 1956 and 1960. In 1961, Crowe formed the Kentucky Mountain Boys, principally performing in the Lexington region.
In 1971, Crowe changed the band’s name to The New South and included material from rock and country music sources. Crowe’s New South band is widely considered one of the most influential bluegrass groups since the 1970s.
J.D. CROWE (AND THE NEW SOUTH)
- From Lexington, Kentucky.
- 1955, began his career as a member of Mac Wiseman’s band.
- 1956, joined Jimmy Martin’s band, The Sunny Mountain Boys, and established himself as one of the top banjo players in the world
- 1966, formed his own group The Kentucky Mountain Boys. Doyle Lawson and Red Allen joined in 1968.
- 1971, changed band name to The New South. The early band included Tony Rice, Larry Rice, and Bobby Slone. Doyle Lawson replaced Larry Rice (after a short stint with Jimmy Martin), and Lawson was later replaced by Ricky Skaggs.
- Other New South alumni: Jerry Douglas, Keith Whitley, Jimmy Gaudreau, Paul Adkins, Wendy Miller, Gene Johnson (of Diamond Rio), Tony King (of Brooks and Dunn), Phil Leadbetter, Rick Pardue, many others.
- Was also a member of the legendary Bluegrass Album Band (with Doyle Lawson, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, Bobby Hicks, and Todd Phillips).
- 1990, retired from music (became a mail carrier) but returned in 1992 with a new version of The New South.
- 2000, his band members left en masse (with Crowe’s blessing) to form a new group called Wildfire.
- 2003, was inducted into the IBMA’s Hall of Fame.
- 1994, 2004, won IBMA Award for Banjo Player of the Year.
- 2004, was inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.
- 2007, won IBMA award for Album of the Year (“Lefty’s Old Guitar”)
- 2011, won the IBMA Award for “Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year” and “Recorded Event of the Year” (both for “Prayers Bells of Heaven” by J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson and Paul Williams)
- 2012, retired again (this time for good) and disbanded The New South, most of whom formed a new band called American Drive.
- 2012, his biography was published by the University of Illinois press titled Crowe on the Banjo: The Music Life of J.D. Crowe written by Marty Godbey.
- 2012, was presented with an honorary doctorate degree by the University of Kentucky.
- 2021, died at the age of 84.
Bluegrass Holiday (King Bluegrass, 1968). The Kentucky Mountain Boys.
Model Church (Rebel Records, 1971). The Kentucky Mountain Boys. Doyle Lawson was in this band.
Blackjack (Rebel Records, 1973). The Kentucky Mountain Boys.
J.D. Crowe & The New South (Rounder, 1976) This is the first New South album featuring Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, and Bobby Slone. This is considered one of the best bluegrass albums ever recorded and is often referred to by fans as 0044, its Rounder catalog number).
My Home Ain’t in the Hall of Fame (Rounder, 1979) This album features Keith Whitley on lead vocals.
Live in Japan (Rounder, 1980) A live album with Keith Whitley, lead vocals.
Straight Ahead (Rounder, 1986).
Come on Down to My World (Rounder, 1999).
Lefty’s Old Guitar (Rounder, 2006).
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