Hobo Jim

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Hobo Jim
Hobo Jim performing at the 2020 Iditarod mushers banquet in Anchorage, Alaska
DiedOctober 5, 2021 (aged 69)
Other namesJim Varsos

Jim Varsos (1952 – October 5, 2021), known by the stage name Hobo Jim, was an Alaskan 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, one of four children of Milton M. Varsos (1922–2013) and his wife Mary Ann (née Culbertson).[6][7][8] His father was of Greek descent, and his family celebrated a number of Greek traditions.[9] Varsos was raised in Madison, Wisconsin, where he began playing the guitar at the age of 12.[10] He hitchhiked to Nashville after some time in college, hoping to make it as a country musician.[10] After spending time hitchhiking and freight riding around the United States, he moved to Alaska in 1972.[10][11] He settled in the state, making his home in Soldotna.[12]

Varsos's songs are primarily regional and occupational songs, focusing on Alaska's commercial fishermen, loggers, and miners.[10] Perhaps the best known of these songs, "Iditarod Trail Song", commemorates the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.[11]

Varsos lived part-time in Nashville, where he worked with publisher Pat Higdon, singer Russell Smith, and writer Rory Bourke, among others.[10][11][13] His song "The Rock", which he co-wrote with Smith, has been recorded by Etta James and George Jones;[14][15] he also co-wrote the Janis Ian song "Empty".[16]

Personal life and death[edit]

Varsos was a collector of Alaska Native artifacts.[17]

In 2018, Varsos received an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.[18]

On September 18, 2021, Varsos announced that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.[11][19] He died in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 5, 2021.[20][12]


  • 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)


  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. ^ Milton Varsos obituary http://funeralinnovations.com/obituaries/view/119176/2
  9. ^ Varsos, Jim (April 12, 2020). "Happy Easter Folks..." Facebook. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  10. ^ a b c d e Delaney, Kelly (September 1, 1989). "Hobo Jim Honors Loggers With Song". American Songwriter.
  11. ^ a b c d Hughes, Zachariah (September 21, 2021). "Alaska balladeer Hobo Jim shares diagnosis of terminal cancer". Anchorage Daily News.
  12. ^ a b Williams, Tess (October 6, 2021). "Hobo Jim, Alaska's balladeer, dies weeks after announcing terminal cancer diagnosis". Anchorage Daily News.
  13. ^ Epler, Patti (September 2012). "40 Years of Song". Alaska. Vol. 78, no. 7. p. 23 – via ProQuest.
  14. ^ "Love's Been Rough on Me". Allmusic.com. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  15. ^ "The Rock". Allmusic.com. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  16. ^ "Hunger". Janisian.com. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  17. ^ Foster, David (July 30, 1985). "Scholars race with Eskimos for artifacts". Schenectady Gazette. Associated Press. p. 32.
  18. ^ Granger, Erin UAF to award honorary doctorate degrees, Meritorious Award at graduation Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, April 23, 2018
  19. ^ Poux Sabine, Hobo Jim reflects on career KDLL news via KBBI, SEP 27, 2021
  20. ^ Moore, Anthony, Alaska’s Official Balladeer, Hobo Jim, Passes Away KSRM, October 6, 2021

External links[edit]