The Ohio bluegrass community has seen unprecedented growth in the last few years. The number of festivals that have been started, and the growth of the music are skyrocketing, because of people with a passion for the music and the willingness to take risks for the sound we all love so well.
In 2015, Sammy Karr and Rick Greene began talks on what would soon become the SamJam Bluegrass Festival in Piketon, Ohio. In those formative days, a question arose among the co-organizers regarding who each thought was their favorite bluegrass band of all time. In unison, both announced, “J.D. Crowe and the New South.”
After three successful years that includes a 2018 IBMA Momentum Award for Best New Festival, SamJam is about to embark on an event in 2019 that the co-organizers never thought possible. J.D. Crowe and the New South will perform on Friday, August 30.
What’s more you ask? Crowe will stick around for Saturday and make an appearance with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder. The two will reunite on stage, playing some of the tunes that changed the face of bluegrass music during the ’70s and, based on Crowe’s limited schedule, is something that may never be seen again.
Once arrangements were finalized, Karr started tossing ideas around on how to honor this special occasion. After some thought and discussion with Ricky Wasson, Crowe agreed to be on SamJam’s first commemorative Bourbon 30 bottle. Bourbon 30 is a craft distillery in Georgetown, KY, that is a festival sponsor, owned by Jeff Mattingly.
“A bourbon bottle made sense to me because Rick and I are Kentucky natives, as are J.D., Ricky Wasson, and Jeff,” Karr said. “J.D.’s appearance and his reunion with Skaggs are special not just to us, but to bluegrass fans around the world. I knew we had to do something special to recognize it.”
The proceeds will go back into the festival, including the festival’s youth camp, an important requirement from Crowe. The labels are colorful, and have the SamJam logo with an artist’s rendering of J.D. holding one of the most famous banjos in the business, the “Banger.”
The bottle is labeled “The New South Edition,” and the labels were made by a company that does work for several distilleries in Kentucky and beyond. Several designs were submitted before the final label was chosen.
“The label represents everything all parties have agreed upon. This is truly the only bluegrass themed bottle we have ever seen,” said Karr, who credits Wasson’s efforts with Crowe as an important factor in making it happen. “Other bluegrass legends bottles are in discussion, and would be produced under the same process.”
Only 100 bottles were made available to the public and only about 50 remain. Once they are gone, there will be no more. If you are lucky enough to get one, it could possibly be one of the most collectable Crowe items ever made available to the public. One can only imagine the value in 50 years. These rare bottles come with a Letter of Authenticity, and are available with a donation to the festival. For more information, contact Sammy Karr at (812) 699-0962 or Rick Greene at (740) 547-9059.
“If there was ever a Mount Rushmore of bluegrass music, J.D. Crowe would be on it as far as we are concerned,” Greene said. “Our fathers introduced us to the music of J.D. Crowe and the New South when we were kids, and J.D.’s music runs right through the heart of our festival. We’re honored and humbled to have the ability to bring his music to our fans, and to recognize him for a lifetime of contributions to bluegrass music.”