Hobo Jim

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Jim Varsos (born 1952 in Indiana[1][2]), better known as Hobo Jim, is an American folk singer-songwriter. He is one of the most popular guitar players in Alaska,[3] playing frequently at small venues across the state.[4] In 1994, Hobo Jim was named Alaska's official balladeer.[5][6][7]

Varsos was raised in Madison, Wisconsin, where he began playing the guitar at the age of 12.[8] He hitchhiked to Nashville after some time in college, hoping to make it as a country musician.[8] After spending time hitchhiking and freight riding around the United States, he made his way to Alaska, where he stayed.[8] His songs are primarily regional and occupational songs, focusing on Alaska's commercial fishermen, loggers, and miners.[8] Perhaps the best known of these songs commemorates the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

As of 1989, Varsos lived part-time in Nashville, where he worked with publisher Pat Higdon, singer Russell Smith, and writer Rory Bourke, among others.[8] His song "The Rock", which he co-wrote with Smith, has been recorded by Etta James and George Jones;[9][10] he also co-wrote the Janis Ian song "Empty".[11]

On May 5, 2018 Hobo Jim received an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.[12]

Varsos is a collector of Alaska Native artifacts.[13]


  • Thunderfoot (1982)
  • Lost and Dyin' Breed (1984)
  • Where Legends Are Born (1986)
  • Collection (1994)
  • Wilderness Way (1996)
  • Woodsmoke (2004)
  • My Wild and Wolfen Ways (2015)


  1. ^ Alden, Grant. "Hobo Jim". In MusicHound folk: the essential album guide. Visible Ink (1998). ISBN 9781578590377.
  2. ^ "Copyright registration: The Iditarod Trail Song". United States Copyright Office. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  3. ^ "Hobo Jim is back". Anchorage Daily News. August 17, 1986.
  4. ^ Peter Jenkins (2002). Looking for Alaska. Macmillan. p. 377. ISBN 978-0-312-30289-4.
  5. ^ Tunseth, Matt (March 24, 2010). "Hobo Jim homeless again — Musician bids BJ's Lounge goodbye after 25 years". Redoubt Reporter. Soldotna, Alaska. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  6. ^ Thornburgh, Nathan (August 30, 2008). "Where Palin made her name". Time.
  7. ^ http://juneauempire.com/neighbors/2012-02-05-0
  8. ^ a b c d e Delaney, Kelly (September 1, 1989). "Hobo Jim Honors Loggers With Song". American Songwriter.
  9. ^ "Love's Been Rough on Me". Allmusic.com. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  10. ^ "The Rock". Allmusic.com. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  11. ^ "Hunger". Janisian.com. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  12. ^ Granger, Erin UAF to award honorary doctorate degrees, Meritorious Award at graduation Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, April 23, 2018
  13. ^ Foster, David (July 30, 1985). "Scholars race with Eskimos for artifacts". Schenectady Gazette. Associated Press. p. 32.

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