Nashville Says Goodbye to JT Gray, Owner of The Station Inn

He will surely be missed, but the music will play on.

Written by Chris Parton
Nashville Says Goodbye to JT Gray, Owner of The Station Inn
NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 12: A general view of atmosphere of Station Inn on December 12, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for American Media)

Nashville said goodbye to the man behind one of its most celebrated venues this week, as Earl JT Gray, owner of The Station Inn, passed away at 75.

Tiny in size but huge in legacy, The Station Inn is a long-venerated home for live bluegrass and roots music in Nashville, with a long list of famous patrons and performers. Gray bought the club and its unimposing cinder-block building in 1981 — back when the bustling Gulch neighborhood of today was just a sleepy side street — and he built it into a charming, no-frills haven for music lovers of all stripes.

One of those music lovers was a young Dierks Bentley, who was partly inspired by The Station Inn’s casual jam sessions to incorporate bluegrass into his own music — most notably with his Up on the Ridge bluegrass album. Meanwhile, others like Vince Gill and Alison Krauss held regular shows over the years, and countless others took to the tiny stage.

The Station Inn’s Facebook page shared the news of Gray’s death on Sunday (March 21), noting that he passed away on the morning of March 20. A cause of death was not listed.

“JT was known for his work in the bluegrass music community as a bluegrass musician and club owner, thoughtfully raising The Station Inn as a home for musicians and fans everywhere,” the post reads. “He bought the business in 1981 and established it as a Nashville icon loved by so many throughout the world. JT’s contributions to bluegrass music cannot be overstated.”

The Mississippi native moved to Nashville in 1971, and in 2020 was inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. The Station Inn was just featured on 2021 Grammy Awards, with Gray presenting Miranda Lambert with the award for Best Country Album from the club’s stage, and it’s currently the subject of an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum titled The Station Inn: Bluegrass Beacon.

Plans for a public celebration of life are being made, and the club plans to keep going in Gray’s memory.

“Just as JT would want, we will ‘keep the music going,'” the Station Inn’s Facebook post says. “JT understood and appreciated greatly the love and support of the bluegrass community, musicians and fans who became family over the years.”