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J. D. Crowe – Train 45

Written by on December 9, 2023

J. D. Crowe, whose full name was James Dee Crowe, was a renowned American banjo player and bluegrass band leader who significantly impacted the genre by blending tradition with innovation.

During the 1950s, Crowe gained prominence during his four-year collaboration with Jimmy Martin. The legendary Earl Scruggs influenced his banjo playing style, and he mastered the three-fingered technique. Before joining Martin’s band, he had already honed his skills playing with musicians like Pee Wee Lambert and Curly Parker. His recordings with Jimmy Martin spanned from 1956 to an unspecified year.

In 1961, Crowe formed his group, The Kentucky Mountain Boys, which primarily performed in the Lexington region. By 1971, he renamed the band The New South. The New South was more than just bluegrass; it was a fusion of jazz, rock, country, and folk elements, a testament to Crowe’s innovative approach. His banjo prowess and leadership defined this influential ensemble. He continued to evolve and experiment, adding fresh dimensions to bluegrass music and inspiring a new generation of musicians.

Crowe’s contributions were not only significant but also widely recognized. In 2008, his life and work were celebrated in a biography called ‘A Kentucky Treasure: The James Dee Crowe Story,’ produced by Kentucky Educational Television. In 2011, he was honored with the prestigious Bluegrass Star Award by the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation in Dallas, Texas. This award is a testament to his role in preserving and advancing traditional bluegrass music while introducing it to new audiences. His impact on the genre remains enduring and profound, underscored by these accolades.

On December 24, 2021, J. D. Crowe died at 84 from pneumonia in Nicholasville, Kentucky. His legacy lives on through the strings of his banjo and the melodies he shared with the world.

“Train 45” is a classic bluegrass instrumental that showcases the remarkable speed and skill of J. D. Crowe, the renowned banjo player. Let’s dive into the story behind this iconic tune.

Recorded during Carlton Haney’s 1971 Labor Day Bluegrass Festival in Camp Springs, North Carolina, “Train 45” became famous due to J. D. Crowe’s exceptional banjo skills. Interestingly, this festival marked the first time the talented Tony Rice joined Crowe’s group. Inspired by the festival, Crowe renamed his band to The New South shortly afterward.

“Train 45” is a traditional instrumental piece that captures the spirit of bluegrass. Crowe’s lightning-fast banjo picking and intricate fingerwork make this tune a standout. The song’s title likely refers to a train, evoking the rhythm and energy of a locomotive hurtling down the tracks.
Legacy and Honors:

J. D. Crowe’s contributions to bluegrass music were immense. In 2003, J.D. was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Tony Rice, who played alongside Crowe, also received this prestigious honor in 2013. “Train 45” remains a cherished piece in the bluegrass repertoire, a testament to Crowe’s enduring influence.

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