Music

Jason 'Rowdy' Cope, Steel Woods Co-Founder & Guitarist, Dies at 42

Photo courtesy of All Eyes Media

Jason "Rowdy" Cope, the 42-year-old co-founder of Southern rock band the Steel Woods, has died. The band shared the news on Saturday (Jan. 16) with a social media post.

"It is with a broken and heavy heart that we share the news that our brother, friend and the founder of The Steel Woods, Jason Cope, has passed away," read the Instagram post, which is accompanied by a photo of Cope inside the Ryman Auditorium. "We are writing this still in a state of shock and kindly ask for your prayers for the family, friends and band at this time. We take comfort in knowing he is in a better place now and his passion for music and art will live forever in the work he has left behind. RIP Rowdy, you will be forever and greatly missed."

As of Monday morning (Jan. 18), the group has not specified a cause of death.

Cope was born on March 15, 1978. He moved to Nashville in 2007 after a long stint in Los Angeles as a working musician. Gigs preceding the formation of the Steel Woods include a spot in Jamey Johnson's touring band. He played on Johnson albums That Lonesome Song and The Guitar Song and co-wrote "Can't Cash My Checks."

Guitarist Cope and lead singer Wes Bayliss formed the Steel Woods in 2016 with bassist Johnny Stanton and original drummer Jay Tooke (Isaac Senty took over drum duties in 2020).

Across two albums (2017's Straw in the Wind and 2019's Old News) and multiple tours, the band built a loyal following off music inspired by multiple genres yet grounded in country music.

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"I love James Brown as much as I love bluegrass as much as I love Bill Monroe. I like good music," Cope said (as quoted on the band's website). "I guess we're a classic rock band. We're just not old enough to be classic rock."

Cope also worked as a producer for Lindi Ortega and a session guitarist for the Secret Sisters.

He's not to be confused with South African actor Jason Cope, a star in such films as District 9, Alive in Joburg, Dredd, Spud, Bunny Chow and Chappie.

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Jason 'Rowdy' Cope, Steel Woods Co-Founder & Guitarist, Dies at 42