Hobo Jim

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Hobo Jim
Hobo Jim performing in 2020 (Quintin Soloviev).jpg
Hobo Jim performing at the 2020 Iditarod mushers banquet in Anchorage, Alaska
Born1952
DiedOctober 5, 2021 (aged 69)
Other namesJim Varsos
OccupationSinger-songwriter

Jim Varsos (1952 – October 5, 2021), known by the stage name Hobo Jim, was an American folk singer-songwriter. He was one of the most popular guitar players in Alaska,[1] playing frequently at small venues across the state.[2] In 1994, Hobo Jim was named Alaska's official balladeer.[3][4][5]

Early life and career[edit]

Varsos was born in Indiana in 1952.[6][7] His father was Greek, and his family celebrated a number of Greek traditions.[8] Varsos was raised in Madison, Wisconsin, where he began playing the guitar at the age of 12.[9] He hitchhiked to Nashville after some time in college, hoping to make it as a country musician.[9] After spending time hitchhiking and freight riding around the United States, he moved to Alaska in 1972.[9][10] He settled in the state, making his home in Soldotna.[11]

Varsos's songs are primarily regional and occupational songs, focusing on Alaska's commercial fishermen, loggers, and miners.[9] Perhaps the best known of these songs, "Iditarod Trail Song", commemorates the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.[10]

Varsos lived part-time in Nashville, where he worked with publisher Pat Higdon, singer Russell Smith, and writer Rory Bourke, among others.[9][10][12] His song "The Rock", which he co-wrote with Smith, has been recorded by Etta James and George Jones;[13][14] he also co-wrote the Janis Ian song "Empty".[15]

Personal life and death[edit]

Varsos was a collector of Alaska Native artifacts.[16]

In 2018, Varsos received an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.[17]

On September 18, 2021, Varsos announced that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.[10][18] He died in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 5, 2021.[19][11]

Discography[edit]

  • Thunderfoot (1982)
  • Lost and Dyin' Breed (1985)
  • Where Legends Are Born (1986)
  • Collection (1994)
  • Wilderness Way (1996)
  • Woodsmoke (2004)
  • My Wild and Wolfen Ways (2015)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hobo Jim is back". Anchorage Daily News. August 17, 1986.
  2. ^ Peter Jenkins (2002). Looking for Alaska. Macmillan. p. 377. ISBN 978-0-312-30289-4.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Thornburgh, Nathan (August 30, 2008). "Where Palin made her name". Time. Archived from the original on August 31, 2008.
  5. ^ "Flying Lions bring Hobo Jim to town". Juneau Empire. February 5, 2012. Archived from the original on February 6, 2012.
  6. ^ Alden, Grant. "Hobo Jim". In MusicHound folk: the essential album guide. Visible Ink (1998). ISBN 9781578590377.
  7. ^ "Copyright registration: The Iditarod Trail Song". United States Copyright Office. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  8. ^ Varsos, Jim (April 12, 2020). "Happy Easter Folks..." Facebook. Retrieved October 7, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ a b c d e Delaney, Kelly (September 1, 1989). "Hobo Jim Honors Loggers With Song". American Songwriter.
  10. ^ a b c d Hughes, Zachariah (September 21, 2021). "Alaska balladeer Hobo Jim shares diagnosis of terminal cancer". Anchorage Daily News.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ a b Williams, Tess (October 6, 2021). "Hobo Jim, Alaska's balladeer, dies weeks after announcing terminal cancer diagnosis". Anchorage Daily News.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ Epler, Patti (September 2012). "40 Years of Song". Alaska. Vol. 78, no. 7. p. 23 – via ProQuest.
  13. ^ "Love's Been Rough on Me". Allmusic.com. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  14. ^ "The Rock". Allmusic.com. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  15. ^ "Hunger". Janisian.com. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  16. ^ Foster, David (July 30, 1985). "Scholars race with Eskimos for artifacts". Schenectady Gazette. Associated Press. p. 32.
  17. ^ Granger, Erin UAF to award honorary doctorate degrees, Meritorious Award at graduation Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, April 23, 2018
  18. ^ Poux Sabine, Hobo Jim reflects on career KDLL news via KBBI, SEP 27, 2021
  19. ^ Moore, Anthony, Alaska’s Official Balladeer, Hobo Jim, Passes Away KSRM, October 6, 2021

External links[edit]