We all knew it had to happen, and that’s how it happened.
A new bluegras festival is launching this summer to honor the music and memory of the great JD Crowe. Dubbed Crowe Fest, its first iteration is scheduled for August 25-27 at the Meadowgreen Bluegrass Music Park in Clay City, KY, not far from where Crowe was originally from.
Crowe Fest is a joint effort between Rickey Wasson, longtime Crowe guitarist and vocalist in The New South and owner of Meadows Green Park, and veteran festival producer Ernie Evans of Evans Media Source. Wasson and Crowe were more than just musical collaborators, becoming great friends in the process. Rickey released JD’s final set of recordings in late 2021, titled Crowe & Wasson.
Evans tells us his interest in getting involved dates back to the days following Crowe’s death on Christmas Eve last year.
“The loss of JD Crowe came at a time when the bluegrass industry was going through a paradigm shift. The bluegrass festival industry was recovering from a Covid Delta Variant setback and the announcement of Doyle Lawson retiring his band award-winning touring company, Quicksilver, a year ahead of schedule.
Shortly after the announcement, our industry would be challenged again with a new strain called Omicron Variant sweeping the 4th quarter of 2021.
Doyle Lawson’s final show was due to take place on New Year’s Eve at Jekyll Island.
We at Evans Media Source had our hands full with a festival, but we wanted to make his latest performance special. So we got to work planning a special night out for Doyle and all of his affiliates he had worked with throughout his career as Quicksilver.
To make it even more special, I spoke to a great mutual friend, Tim Dillman, about what we could do. Tim is a very innovative thinker and we quickly came up with a plan to invite Doyle’s two best friends in the world, Paul Williams and JD Crowe, to surprise him when he shows up.
Tim called with great news that Paul was there and talking to a close acquaintance Rickey Wasson, former member of JD Crowe & The New South and personal friend of JD
Rickey had informed Tim that JD was not feeling well and his health was not the best. So, we waited and checked in from time to time, but his health never improved. Sadly, JD passed away four days before Doyle’s last performance.
In fact, the funeral was scheduled for the same day Doyle was scheduled to perform his last performance.
Although Ernie doesn’t mention it, that final show – heavily promoted and anticipated as such – almost didn’t happen. Doyle was asked to be one of Crowe’s pallbearers, an honor he wouldn’t have missed for the world for his great friend. Lawson was already in Georgia for the gig and many hurdles had to be overcome before he could do both.
“Fast forward past many of the details that, in short, allowed Doyle, Paul and Tim Dillman to fly to Lexington from Jekyll Island and then come back and do his show…
This whole experience created a very strong friendship between all of us and even though none of that happened, JD’s music had touched all of us, and he was a hero of mine since he was a teenager.
Tim, Ricky and I wanted to organize a first class event in honor of the legacy that JD left to the world of bluegrass. Everything is falling into place so quickly and will be there before you know it. We had talked about launching it in 2023 but demand was so strong once word got around that we made the decision to launch it this year.
Crowe Fest will be an annual 3-day event centered around special reunion performances by former New South members, as well as today’s top touring bluegrass artists during JD Crowe’s birthday week. . Reunion performances will be conducted by Rickey Wasson.
Special performances will also be presented by Doyle Lawson, Paul Williams, Sideline, Terry Baucom’s Dukes of Drive, Authentic Unlimited, Ralph Stanley II & The Clinch Mountain Boys, Mo Pitney, Darren Wasson Band, and more.
There will be vendors on site, camping and an indoor stage in case of rain.
People will also have the chance to participate in a fundraising event that will allow them to spend time on stage playing the famous “Banger”, the banjo used on popular recordings by JD himself.
It will be a festival like no other and that’s a promise. Tim, Rickey and I, with the blessing of the Crowe family, are putting our hearts into this event and leveraging everything we’ve learned over the years to make this experience something special that JD would be proud.
Tickets for the festival are available now online for $65, and day passes are also available. Full-service RV sites are limited and can be reserved by calling 606-945-5999. Additional sites with electric service are available, as well as wild camping on site.
What better way to celebrate JD Crowe’s birthday and his music!