The formation of the New South, though, marked the real watershed of his career, attracting musicians with expansive sensibilities who regularly passed through the band’s ranks before moving on to other projects. Among the more notable of these was the singer Keith Whitley, a late-’70s arrival who, like Mr. Skaggs, would achieve considerable success in mainstream country music.
Mr. Crowe started slowing down professionally in the ’80s, limiting himself to reunion concerts and selected recording projects like the six-album series he did with the Bluegrass Album Band, a bluegrass supergroup he founded with Mr. Rice.
Mr. Crowe won a Grammy in 1983 for best country instrumental performance for his recording “Fireball.” He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame in 2003. Kentucky Educational Television aired the documentary “A Kentucky Treasure: The James Dee Crowe Story” in 2008.
Mr. Crowe is survived by his wife of 48 years, Sheryl Moore Crowe; a son, David; a daughter, Stacey Crowe; and a granddaughter.
Mr. Crowe’s musical catholicity gave the lie to the belief that bluegrass is only about cleaving to tradition.
“So many groups try to keep the same sound, and that’s all well and good, if you can,” he said in 2012. “But for myself, I mean, how are you going to replace a Tony Rice and a Ricky Skaggs and a Jerry Douglas?
“You’re not going to do that. If you’re trying to do that, you’re forcing somebody to do what they can’t do, really. Although they may try, it don’t come off. So I figured, well, the best thing is, hire people that has good voices, can sing good, pick good, and let them do their deal.”