The club announced Gray’s death in a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon. The Tennessean confirmed his death with Jeff Brown, Station Inn’s marketing director. Gray died of pre-existing medical conditions.
“It is with the greatest of heart and deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of our dear friend and Station Inn owner Earl JT Gray on the early morning of March 20, 2021,” a statement from Station Inn said. .
The statement continued, “JT was known for his work in the bluegrass music community as a bluegrass musician and club owner, thoughtfully elevating The Station Inn as a home for musicians and fans around the world. … JT’s contributions to bluegrass music cannot be overstated. “
Station Inn opened in 1974, moving to its longtime home at 402 12th Ave. S. in 1978. It was founded by a cohort of bluegrass musicians Marty and Charmaine Lanham, Bob and Ingrid Fowler, Jim Bornstein, and Red and Bird Lee Smith who were first the club’s house band before Gray. took over as Station Inn in 1981.
Gray, a musician raised in Corinth, Mississippi, who moved to Nashville in the 1970s, transformed the club from a self-proclaimed “café” room with on-the-go jams to Nashville’s undisputed home for the world’s best pickers.
But the transformation did not happen without long nights. Gray drove a tour bus during his early years as the club owner to keep the doors of Station Inn open. In the mid-1980s, the venue began hosting sold-out shows, with regular performances by bluegrass torchbearer Bill Monroe, among others.
A soft-spoken leader, Gray would often take the stage to sing along, play standing bass, or strum a few guitar chords with the entertainment of the night. It cultivated Sunday night jam sessions, a gem among Nashville’s weekly shows, and regularly hosted the stars of the Grand Ole Opry after the Friday and Saturday shows.
“Bluegrass music is like one big happy family,” he said last week at the club’s 63rd annual Grammy Awards, which honored the club. “It’s our happy family, playing happy music and having a great time.”
During Gray’s tenure, Station Inn became a temple for the development of bluegrass and country music talent. Alison Krauss and Vince Gill honed their craft from 12th Avenue South.
The Grammy Award-winning Old Crow Medicine Show landed a residency at Station Inn years before they began selling the Ryman Auditorium every New Years Eve. Chris Stapleton and Dierks Bentley visited the Station Inn regularly before becoming known names.
Other artists to play at Station Inn under Gray’s ownership include Ricky Skaggs, Sturgill Simpson and the late John Prine, as well as bluegrass newcomers Molly Tuttlean and Billy Strings. Musicians from Nashville sometimes come for a set at Innlong Station after increasing the audience to the size of an amphitheater elsewhere. The room operating with limited capacity due to COVID-19 precautions continues to favor new gatherers on its stage.
With its long-standing “live acoustic music” brand welcoming those who have pilgrimage to far corners of the globe for a night at the club, Station Inn remains untouched by widespread gentrification in the Gulcha Nashville neighborhood now known for its high-rise condos. and its upscale restaurants.
“Rest In Peace JT,” the Prine Oh Boy Records label shared on Sunday. “What contribution you have made to our community, to our city, to our culture.”
Gray was featured this year in a new Station Inn exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum; he appeared last week at the 63rd annual convention Grammy Awards to present Miranda Lambert with the award for best country album.
Last year Gray was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame.
The club darkened Monday to remember Gray, the statement said. It reopens on Tuesday to (fulfill) Gray’s wishes to “keep the music going”.
A Station Inn celebration for Gray will be announced at a later date.
“JT understood and greatly appreciated the love and support of the bluegrass community, musicians and fans who have become a family over the years,” the site statement said. “The arrangements for the JT’s funeral are being managed by his family and we ask that their privacy be respected at this time. We will continue to update the community as we receive more information.”
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