Bluegrass Legend J.D. Crowe Dies at 84
Bluegrass and banjo legend J.D. Crowe has died. In a post shared to his Facebook fan page, Crowe’s family announced the news of his passing at the age of 84 on Friday (Dec. 24).
“This morning at around 3 a.m., our dad, JD Crowe, went home,” they wrote. “Prayers needed for all during this difficult time.”
Crowe's son, David, later confirmed the news of his father's passing to the Associated Press.
Crowe, who rose to prominence in the 1950s as a member of seminal bluegrass artist Jimmy Martin’s band, later forged his own path as the founder and band leader of New South, a bluegrass quartet which played from 1971 to 2021. An impactful figure in the bluegrass genre, Crowe’s death was met with testimonials from musicians influenced by his work.
“Woke up this morning to hear the sad news about J.D. Crowe,” Grammy Award-winning bluegrass star Billy Strings shared to Facebook. “What can I say? 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. 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. He was just the best bluegrass banjo player out there, man.”
Echoing the sentiment, Béla Fleck tweeted: “We lost one of the greatest banjo players ever to pick up the five early this morning. Farewell and thank you, JD Crowe.”
While the cause of his death has not yet been reported, Crowe had been afflicted by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Bluegrass Today reported that he was hospitalized in November and spent time in a rehab center earlier this month.
New South, which Crowe founded in 1961 as the Kentucky Mountain Boys, toured for a decade before changing to J.D. Crowe & the New South. Through its history, the legendary bluegrass quartet included genre icons including Ricky Skaggs, Tony Rice, Keith Whitley, Don Rigsby, and Jerry Douglas.
Throughout his decades-long career, Crowe earned numerous accolades, including an induction into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2003, a Grammy Award for Country Instrumental of the Year for “Fireball,” an honorary doctorate from the University of Kentucky in 2012, and the Bluegrass Star Award in 2011.