The University of Kentucky bestowed an honorary degree on Friday (12/14) to the legendary J.D. Crowe, marking his lifetime contributions to the bluegrass world, and the Bluegrass State.
Crowe has been a life-long Kentucky resident, and a rabid fan of the UK sports programs, making this a very proud moment for the five string banjo’s reigning elder statesman.
The following proclamation was read by UK President, Dr. Eli Capilouto, prior to conferring the award…
James Dee Crowe — known to his friends and to fans the world over as “J.D.” — is an old-time banjo picker, a master artist, and a living testament to the traditions of Bluegrass music, one of Kentucky’s great gifts to the world.
Born here in Lexington in 1937, J.D. Crowe first picked up the banjo at age 12, launching a musical career that has spanned more than five decades. Mr. Crowe has forged a musical style that is uniquely his own, and his influence on Bluegrass music is on par with that of Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs. Revered as a teacher, Mr. Crowe has freely and repeatedly donated his time to appear in English and music classes here at the University of Kentucky.
For all that he has done to advance the artistry and appreciation of Bluegrass music, for his contributions to the cultural wealth of his home state, for his service as a teacher and a global ambassador for Kentucky, the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees awards this honorary Doctor of Arts degree to J.D. Crowe.
… and this citation was printed in the commencement program:
“James Dee (“J.D.”) Crowe, a native of Lexington and resident of Nicholasville, Kentucky, was born here in Lexington in 1937. He first picked up the banjo at age 12, launching a musical career that has spanned more than five decades.
As a child, young J.D. was informally apprenticed to the late bluegrass music great, Earl Scruggs. In the mid-1950s, he was offered a job with Jimmy Martin’s Sunny Mountain Boys while still in his teens.
In the late 1960s, Crowe formed the Kentucky Mountain Boys, principally performing in Central Kentucky and other areas of the Commonwealth. By the early 1970s, J.D. changed the band’s name to The New South and included material from rock and country music sources.
Many important musicians have been a part of the band over the years, including Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, and Doyle Lawson. After recording more than a dozen albums and having played literally all over the United States and in numerous foreign countries, Crowe is universally recognized as a great ambassador for Kentucky, and for bluegrass music.
Inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame in 2003, he is also a recipient of the Kentucky Governor’s Award in the Arts for his contributions to the state’s folk heritage.
The subject of a book-length biography and a 90-minute television tribute in recent years, Crowe is acclaimed for exemplifying the highest ideals of artistic creativity and musical innovation over a career that spans more than half a century.
This banjoist and bandleader’s sense of service to the University of Kentucky is real and demonstrable. J.D. is revered as a teacher, and not only by other musicians privileged to join his band. When asked by UK faculty, he has freely and repeatedly donated his time to appear in English and music classes where students learn about Appalachian music and bluegrass music, as well as Kentucky and southern culture and history. Crowe humbly, yet readily shares with these students an abundance of detailed information and the unique perspective of a master artist.
This native son of the Commonwealth has helped immeasurably to expand the audience for bluegrass music, Kentucky’s enduring musical gift to the world. For all of his accomplishments, the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees awards James Dee (“J.D.”) Crowe the honorary Doctor of Arts degree.”
Congratulations to J.D. Crowe for this much-deserved honor!
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John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.
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