Crowe on the Banjo
The Music Life of J. D. Crowe
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Series: Music in American Life
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
In the mid-1960s, my husband and I were deeply immersed in the bluegrass music scene in and around Columbus, Ohio. At least once a week, usually more often, we ventured into some dark, sleazy, possibly dangerous “hillbilly” bar to listen to the excellent local musicians. ...
This book would not have been possible without the cooperation and memories of J.D. Crowe, who talked with me on numerous occasions, sometimes for hours, occasionally to answer a quick question on the telephone. He was always helpful and generous with his time, and said, at one point, “If we’re going to do this thing, we need to do it right.” ...
1. I Never Heard a Sound Like That
Centered in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the Bluegrass Region, Lexington, seat of Fayette County, was the prosperous market center of an agrarian economy at the end of the Great Depression. Here were the famous horse farms, with their bluegrass pastures surrounded by white fences; tobacco was the “money crop” for farmers. ...
2. I Just Wanted to Pick
“How I got with Esco Hankins, for the very first time,” J.D. said, “they used to put on amateur contests. As an aspiring picker, everybody goes through that phase—at least back then they did—and so I entered the contest, and I happened to win. The prize—the big prize—was you got to appear on his radio show, which he had every Saturday night from six to seven, ...
3. The Road to Detroit: We Rehearsed
“I went back up to Middletown after school was out,” J.D. said. “Enos Johnson was still there, and Bill Price, who sang tenor and played mandolin with Jimmy—he was from North Carolina—and Bobby Simpson was there also. Smokey Ward called me, and I went back up there and worked with them. ...
4. Louisiana to Wheeling and Home Again
The music Jimmy, Paul, and J.D. made was “different” in many ways. “Jimmy’s rhythm patterns are definitely a little different,” J.D. said. “I’m sure Alan Munde and Kenny Ingram [both played banjo with Jimmy; Ingram also played with Lester Flatt] will tell you it’s a lot different playing with Jimmy than it is with Lester. ...
5. Why Don’t You Come Down to Martin’s?
Left-handed Pike County, Kentucky, native Bobby Slone has a self-deprecating sense of humor and described teaching himself to play: “I had the awfullest time there ever was [learning to play guitar], because I played it upside down.” When he attempted the fiddle, “I ran off about three dogs that never did come back,” ...
6. The Red Slipper Lounge
Lexington’s Holiday Inn North faces a section of interstate highway on which I-64 and I-75 run congruently; incomplete in 1968, both were nevertheless main arteries, heavy with north-south and east-west traffic. One of the largest and most elegant motels in Lexington at the time, the Holiday Inn’s size and grandeur made it comparable to some of today’s fine hotels, ...
7. Rounder 0044 and the Convergence of 1975
The vocals weren’t so much the problem, as it was the rhythm section. At that time, I don’t think there had been any rhythm section that could touch them in terms of being able to hold a piece of music together from beginning to end. ...
8. The New South: Bluegrass, Country, and More
The album the New South had recorded in January was released in September 1975, as Rounder 0044, and created an immediate furor. The cover art was different from most bluegrass albums, and J.D.’s hand, in the band picture, was making what is commonly referred to as “a rude gesture.” ...
9. Burn Out, Time Out, and Second Wind
Steve Bryant was gone by the time the album picture was taken. “[He] left after I was there about a year,” Wendy said, “and went to Nashville as a studio musician. I recommended Randy [Hayes]—we called him ‘Cosmo’—and he did a great job.”1 ...
10. The New New South
When the new New South went into the studio, they took with them some new material and some old songs, but it all came out as bluegrass, Crowe style. Well named, Flashback, the CD reflected various periods in J.D.’s recording life, with Richard’s Tony Rice–influenced voice and guitar; ...
Coda: Tone, Touch, Timing, and Taste
In a lifetime of public performance, J.D. Crowe has won just about every award available to him, although honors and recognition have never been among his goals. They are, however, the only tangible way for a devoted public to let an artist know he is appreciated, to “give back” for the hours of enjoyment his work has provided. ...