Vale Justin Price Rees 1973 – 2012

by | 31 May, 2012 | 9 comments

The Australian Bluegrass community is in mouning the week as we learn of the tragic passing of Justin Price-Rees. Justin was three time National Fiddle Champion in the years 1988, 1989 and 1992, Tamworth and winning his first title at age 15. More recently though Justin would be remembered as fiddle player in the Victorian band Hardrive.

Justin was born in Bishops Stortford , U.K. and came to Australia when he was just 4 years old. He started to learn the organ at age 7, and the violin two years later. At age 10, Justin elected to give all of his energy into learning the fiddle and ceased playing organ. Justin attended many Folk Festivals with his family, and took a shine to Irish Music. Tony O’Rourke, a Melbourne Bluegrass and Irish musician, took a great interest in fostering Justin’s learning of Irish fiddle tunes, while sending him many tapes from which to learn.

Justin started to attend the Bluegrass sessions at Melbourne’s Footscray Arts Centre called ‘Pickin’ At the Piggery. He was a regular attendee from the age of 11 years and developed a keen interest in Bluegrass Music. Justin went on to meet many musicians with which he would swap tunes and slowly developed his bluegrass fiddle style.

Max Tillman, an American fiddle player who was visiting Australia in 1988, was able to help Justin refine many techniques in this style. It was during this visit that Justin, at 15 years, won the National Bluegrass Fiddle Championships, held at Tamworth Country Music Festival, in January each year. He went on to win the title another two times, (1989 and 1992). He then started to learn the banjo, at age 15, and continued his interest in playing the banjo, guitar jaws harp and the mandolin.

Justin was a member of several bands, Southern Exposure, Rough Cut and RCB – Rough Country and other Country Rock Bands and influenced those lineups with his music. Additionally, his background in Celtic music was a valuable contribution to the Sundowners, Australiana band, all of which were in Melbourne.

Justin formed his own band called Murphy’s Lore, in 1998 (a 5 piece) in Melbourne. The band featured both commercial Irish music and some traditional instrumentals given a rock/punk adaption. The band toured to Singapore in 1999, for a month, and featured at a number of the ‘Bridie O’Reilly’ chain of venues in Melbourne, as well as a variety of entertainment venues, both in Melbourne and country Victoria.

In 2000, he formed another commercial Irish Band, Murphy’s Law, (a 5 piece), which performed at many locations and entertainment venues across Victoria.

In 2001 he travelled to the USA and since then he achieved his Green Card on his own merits as a musician with exceptional ability. From 2002 – 2008, he was a band member with Dread Clampitt and performed in major festivals and concerts throughout the Southern USA, as well as popular venues along the coast of Florida.

In recent years, he had turned his attention to writing lyrics and composing tunes, some of which have been recorded. Due to his versatility as a musician, he receives many invitations to accompany notable artists in the music industry, both on stage and recording.

Rest in Peace Justin, you no doubt touched many lives with your music – we will miss you.

Justin’s funeral is set for 2pm Wednesday 6th of June at the Lilydale lawn cemetery chapel. Musicians please take an instrument to perform “Will the Circle be Unbroken”.


  1. Antonia Bigault

    Terribly sad news. I can’t agree more with all the comments. Justin had such talent and he was so inspiring. He truly had a heart of gold. Although I hadn’t known him for a terribly long time, he left a huge impression on me. My thoughts are very much with all his family.
    I will miss you dearly Justin. xx

  2. Mykl Lozin

    This is so gut renchimg, Justin was an exceptional musician. I was right there when he burst onto the scene, sharing the stages, the competions, and even some of the same bands. We may not have always seen eye to eye, as we both chased that no 1 position, but my admiration for this multi talented young man was immense to say the least.
    And whatever the reason, or whatever the cause, I’m sorry I was not there by your side when you needed us most. I will miss you and your wonderful violin playing.
    RIP Justin.
    Mykl Lozin

  3. Rick E Vengeance

    I remember sharing the stage with Justin when he was just a lad (from my perspective) & thinking he was very good & bound to go on. Well, he did, but unfortunately his demons won out.
    I was at the recent Girgarre Moosic Muster & heard a fiddle on stage that was just so sweet, when I checked, it was Justin. You will be sorely missed mate, we’ll meet again in that big session in the yonder…….

  4. Mark Herrington

    Though I wasn’t around Justin as much as others in South Walton county in Northwest Florida. I did spend time around bonfires and many hours enjoying his God given talent of music making at the Red bar and other places and festivals. His kindness , sharp wit and love of life shone out of him like a beacon. My heart felt condolences go out to his family and friends in Australia and around the world. I know that his extended family here in Walton County Florida will be greatly saddened to hear of his passing. I would like to send my personal prayers, song and thanks to him now in the great beyond! Thank you kind soul for offering to restore my grandmother’s violin for me…….though we never quite made that happen……I will think of you every time I see it from now on. We will all be joined together again one day…..until then my friend……thank you for the time we shared here on this fine planet .

  5. Donal Baylor

    This is a terrible tragedy. Justin was a gentle, humble person who had a quiet wit and loved the music. A precocious talent as a teenager, he was making a triumphant return to playing again with Hardrive Bluegrass Band and that makes this news all the harder to take. Justin was a pleasure to play with and we shared some great times. He will be greatly missed.


    A truly sad loss of such a talented musician. We are extremely fortunate that Nick Dear, who had known Justin from when Justin was 12, encouraged Justin – who in recent years had visually ceased playing- to become part of the Hardrive Bluegrass Band. This gave many,many people the chance to enjoy Justin’s fiddle playing once more. Fortunately the band recorded a CD and DVD with Justin, so his legacy can live on. Justin’s last stage performance was at the Coonawarra Arts Festival in South Australia on the weekend of May 17th.
    Those who saw and heard Justin playing in recent years have been blessed to hear the playing one who was among the best local fiddlers, of no matter what genre. If there is heaven, Justin hope you took your fiddle- drop in on Kenny baker!

  7. Lachie Davidson

    It hurts to see such a great young musician go. We first met Justin in 1996 at Yarra Junction, I was 12 and just blown away by the fiddle player. Will miss you Justin, wish we got to pick more but I won’t foget our last pickin session at 3am in Harreitville last year

  8. Laurie Grundy

    Justin’s passing is a tragic loss to his family and friends; our heart felt condolences to his mum Barbara and sister Samantha. It was such a joy to be close to Justin when he was starting out with the fiddle and the festivals and the Grundy family hold many fond memories of him and his infectious enthusiasm and attitude for music. We had a lot of fun times together and we’ll all miss him.

  9. Paul Duff

    This is incredibly sad news. All of the members of Bluegrass Parkway extend their love and thoughts to Justin’s family on their loss. We all remember a fiddler with real taste and quality to his music. We will miss him dearly.