JT Gray, the owner of Nashville's world famous bluegrass venue The Station Inn, died on Saturday morning (March 20) at age 75.
The news, confirmed the following day on social media, follows thee big milestones: the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Jan. 15 opening of its Station Inn exhibit, Gray's March 7 birthday and a March 14 appearance during CBS' Grammy Awards broadcast that championed small to mid-sized venue owners around the country.
Gray (born March 7, 1946 in Corinth, Miss.) moved to Nashville in 1971. He was a bluegrass musician himself, working under Jimmy Martin at one point as his bass player. In his early years as the Station Inn's owner, Gray drove a tour bus for various musicians to help keep the club afloat.
Gray bought the Station Inn in 1981 and helped develop it (and the now-upscale Gulch neighborhood in Nashville) into a bluegrass music mecca. Over the years, its stage has celebrated legends like Bill Monroe while also helping break such future stars as Dierks Bentley.
"I use to mow the grass around it, back when it was the only functioning building down in the Gulch," Bentley wrote in 2016 (as quoted by Variety). "Now it is literally boxed in like the old man's home in the movie 'Up!' Make it one of your places to visit when you come to town."
The Station Inn has also served as the home base for the Time Jumpers, a Western swing outfit that featured Vince Gill from 2010-2020.
"The sudden passing of JT Gray was a shock to the heart of us all," Gill said in a press release. "His devotion to traditional music was legend and he made a legend of the funky juke joint in a crummy part of town--Now the glitziest part of Nashville--where people came from all over the world to hear the best musicians play from the heart not for the bucks but for the love of traditional music. Like all of the music community we mourn his passing deeply at the same time celebrating his well-lived life. JT gave The Time Jumpers our first chance to play over twenty years ago, and was our champion for fifteen years. We can never forget his commitment to getting us started and watching us flourish."
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young best summed up Gray's importance to Nashville's music community.
"JT Gray fostered one of the world's great musical communities. In his quiet and modest way, he assured that bluegrass musicians had a voice and a home at the Station Inn," Young said in a statement. "JT fathered a family bound not by blood but by the love of creation ... His legacy is one of kindness, inclusion and fundamental, unwavering decency."
The Station Inn will continue operating without its visionary. Friends and family of Gray are planning a celebration of life, with more details to come.
Gray's not to be confused with the Mississippi State star turned All-Pro special teams player for the New Orleans Saints.
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