When banjo legend J.D. Crowe retired from active touring with The New South at the end of 2012, he continued to offer occasional performances, primarily with his old friends Doyle Lawson and Paul Williams. He also toured loosely this summer with a reunion of the New South from the 1990s billed as The Flashback Band, named for the album they produced in ’94.
Crowe hadn’t wanted to leave the music he loved, nor all the friends he had made in the business since first recording with Jimmy Martin in 1956 at 19 years of age. But now the word has come down from his physician that continuing to travel and perform runs an unacceptable risk owing to J.D.s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a common respiratory ailment that afflicts millions in the US alone.
COPD typically results from either emphysema or bronchitis, or lung irritation from smoking or other environmental conditions, and can make it difficult for the sufferer to breathe. At 77 years of age, after a lengthy career providing bluegrass banjo at the very highest level of excellence, Crowe has nothing left to prove, and no justification for risking his health on stage.
Promoters that have booked Crowe with either the Old Friends (Crowe, Lawson, Williams) or Flashback bands have been notified that they will be unable to make their remaining engagements. He’s not feeble or confined, the doctors have simply advised him that the rigors of traveling and doing stage work may hasten the progression of his COPD, a disease that can be crippling in its later stages.
Let us all celebrate the richness of the music we have enjoyed from J.D. Crowe, the most heralded living proponent of the Earl Scruggs style of banjo, a style that is forever enhanced and refined by his contributions. We’ll miss you, Crowe, but you’ve earned your rest.
All hail, J.D. Crowe!