It's hard to trace the exact source of "Crow Jane", but it's a song that has outlasted many others from the early days of the blues. Its roots lay in the Piedmont region of Virginia and North and South Carolina. Rev. Gary Davis was known to perform it during the 1920's, and the first recording was made in 1927 by guitarist Julius Daniels. Daniels is important partly because he was one of the first Black guitarists to record in the Southeast, inspiring others to follow.
Piedmont blues guitar has a distinct sound that's very different from Delta blues, which emphasized single note melodies, often played on slide-guitar. Piedmont guitar is based on a fingerpicking style, with the thumb playing rhythm and the fingers playing melody notes. It is also different from Delta blues in that the rhythms are related to ragtime.
Skip James developed his unique fingerpicking guitar style while living in Mississippi in the 1920's, and was one of the first bluesmen to record, with a session in 1931. His songs have influenced everyone from Robert Johnson to Eric Clapton. Because of the onset of the Great Depression, James had no luck selling records and left the blues world, eventually becoming an ordained minister. Some 30 years later, in the early 1960's, Skip James was re-discovered by enthusiasts John Fahey, Bill Barth and Henry Vestine (later of Canned Heat), who helped him re-establish his career. He recorded "Crow Jane" in 1964.