J. D. Crowe & the New South (ROU 0044) selected by the Library of Congress

J.D. Crowe & The New South, often best known to bluegrass lovers by its catalog number, Rounder 0044, has been chosen for by the Library of Congress to be among the 25 commercial audio recordings to go into their National Recording Registry in 2024. This listing ensures that these recordings are to be preserved in perpetuity, having been chosen from among suggestions by the public based on their being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” and at least 10 years old.

ROU 0044 was first released in 1975, and served as the bluegrass public’s first experience of Crowe’s new band, and for many, their first introduction to the musical genius of Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, and Jerry Douglas, all very young men at that time. The album also introduced – or reintroduced – bluegrass lovers to a series of songs that are now considered standards, from The Old Home Place by The Dillards, to Flatt & Scruggs’ Some Old Day, to Summer Wages by Ian Tyson, now played at jams all over the world.

No bluegrass fan needs to be convinced of the importance of this record, or how it changed bluegrass rhythm and lead guitar forever. Jerry Douglas wasn’t as heavily featured as Rice on the album, but students of the reso-guitar were still taken by his highly melodic playing style.

Of course, Crowe was as solid as ever, as was Bobby Sloan on bass, and we were already somewhat familiar with Ricky Skaggs’ singing from his time with Ralph Stanley.

On hearing the news of the album being named for the National Recording Register, Ricky shared these thoughts.

“I’m really glad they chose this record. It was a record that moved the needle forward for bluegrass. This record and the two Boone Creek records that followed were really inspiring to so many young bands who were listening. It’s kind of a big deal.”

Jerry Douglas was even more prolific in remembering those day in 1975.

“In 1975 I was part of a record with a new band, J.D. Crowe and The New South, with Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, and Mr. Bobby Sloan. We recorded at Track Studio to create a record that is now more well-known as Rounder 0044. Little did we know that it would someday be welcomed into the Library of Congress as a groundbreaking and important piece of history.

I only wish J.D., Tony, and Bobby could have quietly celebrated with Ricky and me. What an honor, and this all gave me cause to go back in my memory to that time. I was 19 years old and in the best bluegrass band in the land. I didn’t know how to soak it all up then, but in hindsight am now able to pull up the highlights of that Summer of ’75 when we were joyfully traveling around having the time of our lives, and seeing the wonder on faces at how so much beautiful sound could come from such a small group. Playing alongside masters and Hall of Famers J.D. Crowe, Tony, and Ricky, I was getting the education of a lifetime. Firsts for me like playing the West Coast, (LA and San Francisco), then on to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, Japan. 

I am very indebted to all these mates who trained a young Dobro player in the arts of performance, nuance, and fairness in so many ways. 

Also, the last time anyone tried to tear off my shirt as I ran for the limo in Tokyo after the first concert! 

So many thank to Bill, Ken, and Marian, the Rounders, as well as a man named Hugh Sturgill who convinced us to get out of the Holiday Inn lounge in Lexington, Kentucky and impart to the rest of the world what the mad scientists were working on in that launching pad of Americana.

That made all the rest possible.”

As we approach the 50th anniversary of J.D. Crowe & The New South, it’s worth noting that it has been continuously available from Rounder Records for all that time. It not only rejuvenated Crowe’s career, it helped place the still new Rounder Records on the map. It has only recently been reissued on vinyl by the folks at the Heady Wax Fiends Record Club.

Fortunately, the original black album cover art, with Crowe’s initially unseen gesture, accompanies the National Recording registry induction.

Here’s a video shot in ’75 for Kentucky Public Television with the band playing several songs from the album, and talking with an interviewer about the project.

Descriptions of all 25 recordings selected this year can be found on the Library of Congress web site.

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About the Author

John Lawless

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.