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Jim & Jesse

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Jim & Jesse
Jim & Jesse in 1965
Jim & Jesse in 1965
Background information
OriginCarfax, Virginia, U.S.
Years active1945–2002
LabelsEpic, Harmony, Capitol, CMH, Soundwaves, MSR, Rural Rhythm, Pinecastle
Past membersJim McReynolds
Jesse McReynolds
WebsiteOfficial website

Jim & Jesse were an American bluegrass music duo of brothers, Jim McReynolds (February 13, 1927[1] – December 31, 2002)[2] and Jesse McReynolds (July 9, 1929 – June 23, 2023).[1][3] They were born and raised in Carfax, a community near Coeburn, Virginia, United States.[1]


Jesse played the mandolin with a unique, self-invented "crosspicking" and "split-string" playing method, and Jim sang as a high tenor and played guitar.[1] They played with their backing band, The Virginia Boys,[1] consisting of a five-string banjo, fiddle, and bass player. The Virginia Boys have included musicians such as fiddler Vassar Clements, banjo player Allen Shelton, Mike Scott, Vic Jordan, Bobby Thompson, Carl Jackson, fiddler Jimmy Buchanan, Glen Duncan, Jesse's oldest son, the late Keith McReynolds, Randall Franks, and many more.

After the death of his brother Jim, Jesse continued to perform with their Virginia Boys band. He still performed in the bluegrass music tradition, but added other genres of music to his repertoire, including Chuck Berry and Grateful Dead songs. Jesse participated in a 2010 tribute to Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter titled Jesse McReynolds & Friends Tribute to Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter: Songs of the Grateful Dead, released on Woodstock Records. It features Garcia's friends David Nelson and Sandy Rothman, along with Stu Allen, of the present Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band.

Jesse's band line-up included Keith's son, Garrett McReynolds, as tenor singer/rhythm guitarist. On special occasions, Jesse took out the historic fiddle his grandfather played on the Bristol Sessions, and let his grandson Luke McKnight do the cross-picking that Jesse created. Rounding out the group was Travis Wetzel on fiddle, Gary Reece on banjo, and Larry Carney on guitar.


In 1952, Jim & Jesse were signed to their first major label, Capitol Records.[4] They have also recorded for Columbia Records, Epic Records,[4] and Opryland USA. They also released under their own Old Dominion record label. In 1960, their first single for Columbia was "The Flame of Love" backed by "Gosh I Miss You All the Time". Their other classic songs include "Cotton Mill Man", "Diesel on My Tail", "Are You Missing Me", and "Paradise".

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jim and Jesse starred on the live radio show, the Suwannee River Jamboree, broadcast on Saturday nights from Live Oak, Florida, on WNER radio.[5] The show was also syndicated throughout the Southeastern United States. The brothers replaced the Stanley Brothers on the show. They left when Martha White began using the duo as a sponsor.

On March 2, 1964, they were invited to join the Grand Ole Opry after making several appearances as guest performers, and they moved to Gallatin, Tennessee, later that year.[6]

Jim and Jesse joined producers Randall Franks and Alan Autry for the In the Heat of the Night cast album Christmas Time's A-Comin', performing the title song with the cast. The album became one of the most popular Christmas releases of 1991 and 1992 with Southern retailers.[citation needed] Jesse also added his mandolin talents to a vocal performance of "Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella" by actor Carroll O'Connor.

Jesse continued to perform at numerous folk festivals representing the traditional arts and some of his new styles.

Personal lives[edit]

The McReynolds' grandfather, Charles McReynolds, had led the band The Bull Mountain Moonshiners, who recorded at the Bristol Sessions in 1927.[7]

In 2002, both brothers were diagnosed with different types of cancer. Jesse's battle was successful, but Jim died in 2002 at the age of 75,[2] ending the longest active professional brother duet in the country music history, at 55 years.

Jesse carried on the Jim & Jesse tradition and continued to play the Grand Ole Opry and special dates with his band, as well as being a guest with other groups. He died of natural causes in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 23, 2023 at the age of 93.[3]

Awards and honors[edit]

The duo's honors include induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame's "Walkway of Stars", the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame, the International Bluegrass Music Association's Hall of Honor, and Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Individually and collectively they were nominated for several Grammy Awards. They also received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts,[8] presented by Hillary Clinton and Jane Alexander at The White House on September 23, 1997.

In 2004, Jesse was honored with a nomination by the International Bluegrass Music Association for his project Bending the Rules as Instrumental Recording of the Year.



Year Album US Country Label
1963 Bluegrass Special Epic
Bluegrass Classics
1964 The Old Country Church
1965 Y'all Come
Berry Pickin' in the Country
1966 Sing Unto Him a New Song
Sacred Songs We Love Vernon Records
1967 Diesel on My Tail 13 Epic
1968 All-Time Great Country Instrumentals
1969 Saluting the Louvin Brothers
1970 We Like Trains
Wildwood Flower Harmony
1972 Mandolin Workshop Hilltop Records
1974 Superior Sounds of Bluegrass Old Dominion Records
1980 Jim & Jesse Today! CMH Records
1982 Jim & Jesse & Charlie (with Charlie Louvin) Soundwaves
1990 The Jim & Jesse Story CMH Records
1991 Music Among Friends Rounder
1997 Tribute to Bill Monroe AMI
1998 Songs From the Homeplace Pinecastle
2001 Our Kind of Country
2002 American Pride
2003 'Tis Sweet to be Remembered


Year Single US Country Album
1964 "Cotton Mill Man" 43 single only
"Better Times A-Coming" 39 Y'all Come
1967 "Diesel on My Tail" 18 Diesel on My Tail
"The Ballad of Thunder Road" 44
1968 "Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman" 49 single only
"Yonder Comes a Freight Train" 56 We Like Trains
1970 "The Golden Rocket" 38
1971 "Freight Train" 44
1982 "North Wind" (with Charlie Louvin) 56 Jim & Jesse & Charlie
1986 "Oh Louisiana" 78 single only


  1. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Country Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. pp. 204/5. ISBN 0-85112-726-6.
  2. ^ a b "Jim McReynolds, 75, of Bluegrass Duo Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved August 7, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Lawless, John (June 23, 2023). "Jesse McReynolds passes". Bluegrass Today. Retrieved June 24, 2023.
  4. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas; Vinopal, David (November 22, 2011). "Jim & Jesse Biography". CMT. Archived from the original on July 2, 2004. Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  5. ^ Ewing, Tom. "Leslie Sandy – The Lost Are Found". Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine. 2004 (January). Retrieved May 29, 2009.
  6. ^ "Opry Timeline - 1960s". Archived from the original on May 27, 2019. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  7. ^ Harrison, Pat. Notes to The Bristol Sessions 1927/1928 - Country Music's "Big Bang". JSP Records JSP77156 (4CD box set), 2012.
  8. ^ "NEA National Heritage Fellowships 1997". www.arts.gov. National Endowment for the Arts. Archived from the original on August 13, 2020. Retrieved December 18, 2020.

External links[edit]