Earl “J.T.” Gray, owner of the Station Inn, has died. According to social media posts from the intimate
bluegrass mecca’s official accounts and confirmed by The Tennessean, Gray died Saturday, March 20,
of an undisclosed preexisting medical condition. He was 75 years old.
The Mississippi native and longtime Nashvillian was a touring musician in Jimmy Martin’s band when a group of
top-notch bluegrass pickers opened the original Station Inn near Centennial Park in 1974. The club moved to
its present location in the Gulch in 1978, and Gray took the reins in 1981. At the time, Music City wasn’t known
for its bluegrass scene, and Gray put in a heap of sweat equity to nurture it, sometimes driving musicians’ tour
buses to make ends meet for the venue.
The club has become a favorite spot for generations of fans and performers alike, from Bill Monroe to John Prine,
Alison Krauss and Vince Gill, Old Crow Medicine Show, Molly Tuttle and beyond. Though tradition is both a lyrical and musical
theme of bluegrass, Gray and his team made a smart call with regard to adapting the club to a changing time and a changing city.
More than a year before COVID-19 led to the shuttering of public spaces, they outfitted the club with a high-definition video streaming
rig and launched Station Inn TV, whose streaming concerts have helped the venerable venue persevere and keep the community ties strong when
business has been anything but normal.
For his efforts, Gray was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame last year. As part of a spotlight on independent venues,
he was also invited to present the Grammy for Best Country Album to Miranda Lambert during the socially distanced broadcast on March 14, 2021.
According to the venue’s statement, Gray’s family will be handling funeral arrangements and holding a private service. The club will do
something it rarely has, even during the pandemic: It will go dark tomorrow, March 22. But there will be a public celebration of life at the
Station Inn as soon as possible. If it’s anything like the venue’s trademark jam nights, you can bet it will be extremely special and heartfelt.
More details will be announced.
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