Bluegrass music legend and Lexington native J.D. Crowe dies

Posted at 10:28 AM, Dec 24, 2021

(LEX 18) — Kentucky has lost a Bluegrass music legend.

Banjoist and Lexington native J.D. Crowe died early Christmas Eve morning. His son, David, confirmed the news on social media.

Crowe was first known by many for his work with Jimmy Martin & the Sunny Mountain Boys in the 1950s. He later performed with the Kentucky Mountain Boys in the 1960s for more than a decade.

In 1983, Crowe won a Grammy for his song "Fireball" in the Country Instrumental of the Year category.

You’ll have to excuse Michael Johnathon if he’s not feeling as festive on this Christmas Eve as he might normally feel.

“The timing isn’t good, is it?” he asked rhetorically.

Johnathon lost a friend on Friday morning, who also happened to be one of the best banjo players who ever walked the planet.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, he was an 11,” he said of J.D. Crowe. “He taught the basics of tone and timing, which on the banjo is a hard thing to do,” he continued.

Johnathon is an accomplished musician and author, as well as the host of the nationally syndicated WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Crowe was a frequent guest of that show.

“Whether they were fans coming up to him in a restaurant, or people that he had known for years, or other musicians that he’d encourage, anytime I asked him to do anything, he never said no,” Johnathon said.

Crowe’s children politely declined comment, but did issue a written statement about their father’s death: “We just want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. As great as a musician as dad was, he was an even better husband, father, and friend,” the statement read.

Johnathan, who spoke about the album that Crowe was working on, and will now be released posthumously, said much of the same, noting that the Grammy awards Crowe won were a nice career validation, but he always took more pride in being a good person, and mentor to young musicians.

“You learn that life is such a precious commodity,” Johnathon said. “There’s only so many nickels in that bank and they get spent with, or without your participation. And J.D. was a life well-spent.”