HomeEntertainmentMusicJ.D. Crowe, Banjo Legend Who Formed New South, Dies at 84

J.D. Crowe, Banjo Legend Who Formed New South, Dies at 84

by Maria Hartfield
Credit: Beth Gwinn / Contributor

Iconic banjo player J.D. Crowe, born James Dee Crowe, died Christmas Eve morning at the age of 84. The Grammy award winner passed away early Friday morning as per a Facebook post on the Kentucky Country Music page.

It read, “Earlier this morning, we received the news of the passing of J.D. Crowe, as confirmed by his son David.”

“You could not have found a nicer guy in the world of bluegrass than Crowe. One of the hardest working guys in the music business, he was also a hoot to be around.”

Details surrounding Crowe’s death are still to be determined. However, prior to his passing, Crowe was admitted to the hospital in late November. Bluegrass Today reported Crowe was recovering in a rehab center following the hospitalization.

J.D. Crowe’s longstanding music career

Crowe made a name for himself playing Bluegrass music. His longstanding career spans over five decades. Born in 1937, J.D. Crowe got his start playing alongside Jimmy Martin’s Sunny Mountain Boys in the 1950s. Later, he formed the Kentucky Mountain Boys eventually becoming The New South in 1971.

Originally from Lexington, Kentucky, Crowe was given his first job playing music by none other than Raymond “Curly” Parker. Crowe was only a teenager at the time.

The late musician went on to win a Grammy for his song “Fireball” in the Country Instrumental of the Year category.

In 2008, Kentucky Educational Television aired a biography of J.D., A Kentucky Treasure: The James Dee Crowe Story, produced by H. Russell Farmer.

Additionally, in 2011 Crowe received the Bluegrass Star Award. Shortly thereafter he announced his retirement from touring.

Following Crowe’s death, several fellow musicians from around the world have taken to social media to pay tribute to the Bluegrass band leader.

One Facebook page for the Blue Highway band said, “one of our heroes and biggest influences” in a moving post.

“Nobody ever had the groove, the touch, tone and timing of this man,” it continued. “Prayers for his family and for the whole Bluegrass community. This one really hurts.”

American country singer and bluegrass singer-songwriter Donna Ulisse chimed in with, “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.”

She continued saying, “I was blessed to get to know him a little and what a grand gentleman he was.”

Bluegrass musician Billy Strings affectionately referred to Crowe as, “just the best bluegrass banjo player out there.”

“He was an absolute legend,” Strings continued. “Cre will be remembered as one of the greatest ever to play bluegrass music. He had tone, taste and TIMING like no other.”

Although J.D. Crowe stopped touring in 2011, he still continued to share his music at live events and festivals all the way up until 2019.