Jason “Rowdy” Cope’s Death Currently Ruled “Unclassified”

photo: Brad Coolidge

The death of guitar player and songwriter Jason “Rowdy” Cope for the country and Southern rock band The Steel Woods sent shockwaves throughout the independent country community when it was announced on Saturday evening, January 16th.

“It is with a broken and heavy heart that we share the news that our brother, friend and the founder of The Steel Woods, Jason Cope, has passed away,” the band said in part. “We are writing this still in a state of shock and kindly ask for your prayers for the family, friends and band at this time.”

Nashville Police Department Public Affairs Manager Don Aaron tells Saving Country Music that Jason Cope’s passing is currently considered an “unclassified death,” pending an autopsy by the local Medical Examiner. Autopsy reports regularly take between 6 to 8 weeks to conclude.

According to Don Aaron, Jason Cope was found by a male friend who went to his home on Erin Ln. in Nashville Saturday morning, January 16th, to check on him. After knocking on the door repeatedly and receiving no response, the friend forced entry where he found Jason Cope unresponsive, and called 911. There was no sign of a struggle, and no sign of foul play in Jason Cope’s death, though the investigation remains pending until the final autopsy report.

Jason Cope made his name and became a familiar face to many country fans after touring in Jamey Johnson’s backing band for nearly 10 years. Through this time period, Cope also worked as an in-demand session guitar player, performing on records from artists such as Brent Cobb, The Secret Sisters, The Oak Ridge Boys, Pure Ed, Ted Russell Kamp, Nikki Lane, and for Jamey Johnson as well. He played on multiple albums for Lindi Ortega, and produced her 2017 EP ‘Til The Goin’ Gets Gone.

“He played guitar with the heart and soul of a virtuoso and the passion of a freedom fighter,” Jamey Johnson says of Rowdy. “He played because his huge heart overflowed with love and life and rage and healing. As a guitarist he was a force, as a songwriter he was an emotion with a pen, as a friend he was loyal and dependable to the end and as for me, he was my brother.”

Brent Cobb said upon Rowdy’s passing, “He schooled me on everything. He gave me an education you can’t teach unless you lived it. He lived it. And he shared it with anyone willing to learn. He taught me how to grow up, really. He’d always say the secret to success was ‘keeping irons in the fire.’ He was the real damn deal. It’s hard to accept that he’s gone. He’ll be very sorely missed.”

Jason Cope started The Steel Woods with lead singer/guitar player Wes Bayliss. The two met at a one-off gig in Nashville, and after a fishing retreat together, decided to give a new band a shot, hitting it off despite a 13-year age difference. After releasing their debut album Straw in the Wind in 2017 via Thirty Tigers, The Steel Woods immediately shot up the country and Southern Rock depth charts. In early 2019 they released their latest record Old News to much critical acclaim. The album was nominated for Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year.

The Steel Woods are considered one of the fastest-rising bands in independent country and Southern rock, and had recently completed their third album to be released via Thirty Tigers.

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