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J.D. Crowe to play Mountaineer Opry before retirement

Oct. 16, 2012 @ 01:58 PM

J. D. Crowe is by all measures a legend in the music world.

Since the great Earl Scruggs died earlier this year, considered the inventor of the three-finger-style of banjo playing that is at the heart of bluegrass music, Crowe has become the elder statesmen as far as that instrument is concerned.

Crowe recently made news of his own this year with the announcement of his retirement. While he will play limited dates with some special guests in the years to come, his band The New South as well as his full time touring schedule will exist no more. This weekend, the local favorite will come to the Mountaineer Opry House in Milton to perform for perhaps the last time ever.

J.D. Crowe and the New South will appear at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Opry House. Doors open at 5 p.m., and tickets are $15, $12 for seniors and $5 for children.

When Crowe went about telling his group of his impending retirement, he did it in a classy way. New South guitarist and lead singer Ricky Wasson owns a music shop in Clay City, Ky., called Rick's Music and Electronics and Crowe drove there from his home outside of nearby Lexington to tell his long-time band member the news in person.

"Well, he just came up to the store and he said it was something he had been thinking about for quite a while," said Wasson. "He said that he always promised himself that if he could play and stay healthy until he got to75, he'd hang it up. It's not that he is going to totally quit playing music because that is something that is born and bred into him. But he doesn't want to have the commitments and to play a full schedule. He'll play probably five or 10 shows a year with some of his friends and maybe even play some shows with us at times. I wasn't really surprised. I knew that he wanted to slow down, and he's been cutting the amount of shows every year."

In February of 2011, Crowe slipped and fell off of his tour bus and broke his arm in two places. Wasson was there when the accident happened.

"I was the one that picked him up," Wasson said. "It was beyond a doubt that he had broken bones. But he recovered, and I even talked to his doctor and he said that he couldn't have had a better patient."

Crowe could have hung up his music career right there and then, but Wasson believes that Crowe was motivated to come back and play once he was healthy again.

"He told me that his first goal was to get back to where he could play without a broken arm, and he totally recovered from that," said Wasson. "That was a big goal. But then he said that he wanted to go fishing and have weekends off where he can do the things he wants to do other than play music."

The good news is that the remaining members of The New South have formed a new band called American Drive, bringing in young gun banjo player Justin Jenkins. They debuted at the recent International Bluegrass Music Association Word of Bluegrass Week in Nashville, and the new self-titled album can be found on the Rural Rhythm label. The rest of the group includes Dwight McCall, Matt DeSpain and Kyle Perkins.

"Justin is a good banjo player," said Wasson. "It is really different for us because we're used to playing J.D. Crowe music. But, it's going to be exciting, too. So, we're just going to try and keep on keeping on and do what we love to do. It's the only choice we have, but it's going to be fun and I'm looking forward to it. We're ready to play music and we're booking dates for 2013 and 2014."

If you go:

WHO: J.D. Crowe and the New South

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20

WHERE: Mountaineer Opry House, Milton

HOW MUCH: $15, $12 for seniors, $5 for children


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