The Station Inn Owner JT Gray Passes Away

A week ago, the international television audience tuning into see the 2021 Grammy Awards got to see a little slice of country music history when the presentation cut to the acoustic room in Nashville, Tennessee known as The Station Inn, and its owner JT Gray. It was part of the Recording Academy’s effort to highlight the local, and independently-owned venues that are so integral to supporting music at the grassroots level, and it doesn’t get any more grassroots than The Station Inn.

“Bluegrass music is like one big happy family,” JT Gray said before presenting Miranda Lambert with the Grammy for Best Country Album. “It’s our happy family, playing happy music and having a happy time.” 

Little did we know at that time it would be JT Gray’s swan song. But all more poignant he got that one final moment to receive the national recognition he so long deserved. On Sunday, March 21st, The Station Inn announced that JT Gray had passed away the previous day due to pre-existing medical conditions. He was 75-years-old.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts and deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of our dear friend and Station Inn owner, Earl JT Gray, early on the morning of March 20, 2021 … JT understood and appreciated greatly the love and support of the bluegrass community, musicians and fans who became family over the years.”

A bluegrass musician himself who was raised in Corinth, Mississippi, JT Gray migrated to Nashville in the 1970’s. The Station Inn was opened initially in 1974 by a group of bluegrass musicians who saw the need for an acoustic room in town, and then moved it to its current location at 402 12th Ave. S. in The Gulch neighborhood in 1978 where it still sits today. JT Gray purchased the operation in 1981. By the mid 80’s, JT had the place humming, with regular performances by Bill Monroe, and sold out shows most any night of the week.

Many local venues love to tout themselves as proving grounds for musicians. The Station Inn backs that up with the names that started or rose to prominence from its stage, from Chris Stapleton and Dierks Bentley, to Sturgill Simpson who played there regularly when he first moved to town and whose been playing all his late-night performances from the venue during the pandemic, to Billy Strings who just won the Grammy Award for Best Country Album.

JT Gray kept the operation purring, regularly jumping up on stage to join in a jam. Audiences knew what was expected at The Station Inn, and you would get hushed if you interrupted a songwriter.

Of course the COVID-19 lockdown presented a unique set of challenges for The Station Inn. But luckily with the support of the community that JT and The Station Inn supported for many years, it endured while many iconic local venues were shuttered.

Funeral arrangements and a celebration of JT Gray’s life are pending, but the venue is planning to go dark on Monday, March 22nd to honor the musician and community member. The Bluegrass Inn also assures, in the words of JT, that they will “keep the music going!”

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