J.D. Crowe performs during the 2012 IBMA Bluegrass fan fest at the on September 28, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Beth Gwinn/Getty Images)

J.D. Crowe, Pioneering Banjo Player and Bluegrass Legend, Dies at 84


J.D. Crowe, a master of the bluegrass banjo, died on Friday morning (Dec. 24). He was 84.

Crowe's family made the announcement on Facebook.

"This morning at around 3 a.m. our dad, JD Crowe, went home," Crowe's family wrote. "Prayers needed for all during this difficult time."

Born in Lexington, Kentucky, James Dee Crowe joined Jimmy Martin's Sunny Mountain Boys in 1954. In 1961, Crowe formed the Kentucky Mountain Boys, which he later renamed J.D. Crowe & the New South.


The New South became one of the most influential bluegrass acts, and included Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Jerry Douglas and Bobby Sloane in its lineup.

The band's self-titled 1975 Rounder Records release is considered one of the most iconic bluegrass albums of all time.

Crowe was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2011, he was awarded the Bluegrass Star Award. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Kentucky in 2012. Though Crowe retired from touring in 2019, he continued to perform.

Several bluegrass musicians took to social media to reflect on Crowe's legacy.


"We lost one of the greatest banjo players ever to pick up the five early this morning," Bela Fleck wrote on Twitter. "Farewell and thank you, JD Crowe."

Billy Strings called Crowe "an absolute legend."

"Woke up this morning to hear the sad news about J.D. Crowe," Billy Strings wrote. "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."