Crowe on the Banjo

Crowe on the Banjo: The Music Life of J. D. Crowe

MARTY GODBEY
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt1xcptm
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    Crowe on the Banjo
    Book Description:

    In this first biography of legendary banjoist J. D. Crowe, Marty Godbey charts the life and career of one of bluegrass's most important innovators. Born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, Crowe picked up the banjo when he was thirteen years old, inspired by a Flatt & Scruggs performance at the Kentucky Barn Dance. Godbey relates the long, distinguished career that followed, as Crowe performed and recorded both solo and as part of such varied ensembles as Jimmy Martin's Sunny Mountain Boys, the all-acoustic Kentucky Mountain Boys, and the revolutionary New South, who created an adventurously eclectic brand of bluegrass by merging rock and country music influences with traditional forms. Over the decades, this highly influential group launched the careers of many other fresh talents such as Keith Whitley, Ricky Skaggs, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, and Doyle Lawson._x000B__x000B_With a selective discography and drawing from more than twenty interviews with Crowe and dozens more with the players who know him best, Crowe on the Banjo: The Music Life of J. D. Crowe is the definitive music biography of a true bluegrass original.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09353-1
    Subjects: Music, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Marty Godbey
  5. CHAPTER 1 I NEVER HEARD A SOUND LIKE THAT
    (pp. 1-17)

    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.

    Lexington, with a population of nearly fifty thousand, had little industry. There were stores that sold feed, seed, farm implements, and horse supplies, and auction barns for horses and tobacco. Two racetracks, the new Keeneland Race Course for thoroughbreds and the Red Mile trotting track, attracted thousands to...

  6. CHAPTER 2 I JUST WANTED TO PICK
    (pp. 18-35)

    “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, and it was live, and the studio [WLAP], only held about thirty-five or forty people, so it was usually full.”¹ For J.D. it was a good experience. “It wasn’t very...

  7. CHAPTER 3 THE ROAD TO DETROIT: WE REHEARSED
    (pp. 36-53)

    “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. Smokey tried to play the fiddle, Bill sang, and me—I was trying to learn some baritone. Enos would sing, too. There were always guests. I’ll tell you what, he [Smokey Ward] had so many commercials we didn’t have to play much. He could talk ten minutes...

  8. CHAPTER 4 LOUISIANA TO WHEELING AND HOME AGAIN
    (pp. 54-73)

    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. And I’m doing different timing now than I did when I was with Jimmy. When you play with Jimmy, you play what suits what he is doing. That’s what makes for a good musician. A lot of pickers don’t know that.”¹

    Always prominent in Jimmy’s...

  9. CHAPTER 5 WHY DON’T YOU COME DOWN TO MARTIN’S?
    (pp. 74-91)

    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,” he said, but he was playing with the Kentucky Ramblers over Pikeville’s WLSI when he was thirteen years old. Later, he went to Bristol, Virginia, on his summer vacation, and played several summers with Buster Pack and the Lonesome Pine Boys on WCYB’sFarm and Fun Time.¹...

  10. CHAPTER 6 THE RED SLIPPER LOUNGE
    (pp. 92-112)

    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, and its “Red Slipper Lounge” was a dark, mirrored cave, dimly lit by crystal chandeliers, with comfortable leather chairs and banquettes and a thick carpet. Sharing a wing and an entrance with the dining room, it was far from the main...

  11. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  12. CHAPTER 7 ROUNDER 0044 AND THE CONVERGENCE OF 1975
    (pp. 113-131)

    It was several months before Tony Rice felt comfortable with the band:

    It was a little rough at first, and in retrospect, I really don’t know how [J.D.] had the patience to deal with what he had to deal with, but he did.

    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. There was something real magical about that combination of Crowe, and Doyle...

  13. CHAPTER 8 THE NEW SOUTH: BLUEGRASS, COUNTRY, AND MORE
    (pp. 132-151)

    The album the New South had recorded in January was released in September 1975, asRounder 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.”

    “We had a slide one inch square,” Ken Irwin said. “It was the only one in which everybody was smiling. That’s what we made our decision on. I don’t know if the band [seeing the small slide] knew about the finger, but obviously, it showed up when it was a foot...

  14. CHAPTER 9 BURN OUT, TIME OUT, AND SECOND WIND
    (pp. 152-170)

    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

    Hayes, from Waneta, Kentucky, had worked with Wendy in the Russell Brothers. Primarily a guitar player, he also played bass and drums and had a strong tenor voice. “About every note I learned was from [Steve Bryant],” he said. “He was one of the best bass players out there. I had to re-form what I...

  15. CHAPTER 10 THE NEW NEW SOUTH
    (pp. 171-188)

    When thenewNew 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; Don’s refined mountain tenor and crisp mandolin breaks; Phil’s smooth, always appropriate Dobro; Curt’s solid bass; and, of course, J.D.’s crackling, authoritative banjo, the “drum” of the band, beneath and on top of it all.

    Richard Bennett wrote or cowrote four new songs: “Waiting for You” (with Curt Chapman), “If I...

  16. CODA: TONE, TOUCH, TIMING, AND TASTE
    (pp. 189-194)

    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.

    Among his awards are the Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance in 1983 for “Fireball,” with the reunited 1975 New South, onBluegrass: The World’s Greatest Show, and Grammy nominations for Best Bluegrass Album forFlashbackin 1994 and forLefty’s Old...

  17. NOTES
    (pp. 195-210)
  18. SELECTED LISTENING
    (pp. 211-216)
  19. ADDITIONAL READING
    (pp. 217-218)
  20. INTERVIEWS
    (pp. 219-222)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 223-232)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 233-240)