J.D. (James Dee) Crowe is a well-known banjo player. Crowe was born on August 27, 1937 in Lexington, Kentucky.
Crowe first picked up the banjo when he was 13 years old, after seeing Flatt & Scruggs play. Crowe began attending their performances frequently and would sit as close as he could to the stage so he could study Scruggs’ picking style. He first came to prominence as a banjo player in the 1950s while playing for Jimmy Martin. He recorded for Jimmy Martin between December of 1956 and August of 1960.
After his time with Martin’s band, Crowe went on to form the Kentucky Mountain Boys, a band which lasted for a few years. By the time the early 70’s rolled around, Crowe had gone on to form J.D. Crowe and The New South, and they would go on to become one of the most influential groups of the 1970s. The original lineup had Tony Rice on guitar, Ricky Skaggs on mandolin, Jerry Douglas on dobro and Bobby Sloan on bass and fiddle.
The New South was so influential because they blended folk, blues, country and rock styles together to create an innovative form of bluegrass. They also emphasized playing on electric instruments to aid their unique style. Their 1975 self-titled debut album took the world by storm, and many considered it an incredibly important album in the development of bluegrass.
Crowe is still alive today, though he (sort of) retired from touring in 1988. I say “sort of” because he has appeared on a few tours and played a number of shows since his “retirement.”
This video is a live recording of J.D. Crowe and The New South from 1974.