Jim and Jesse

Updated: May 09, 2011

Jim and Jesse McReynolds have received acclaim since the 1950s for their style of bluegrass. Rather than being gener- ally mournful, bluesy, and lonesome like the music of Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers, the McReynolds’ music is often joyful and positive.

Jim and Jesse McReynolds have received acclaim since the 1950s for their style of bluegrass. Rather than being generally mournful, bluesy, and lonesome like the music of Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers, the McReynolds’ music is often joyful and positive.

Both brothers were born in Carfax, Virginia, Jim on February 13, 1927, and Jesse on July 9, 1929. Brought up in a musical family (their grandfather Charles McReynolds was a noted fiddler who participated in the historic Bristol ses- sions), the brothers started playing on radio in 1947 before embarking on their recording career in 1951. Their early style was inspired by the Louvin Brothers. Jim and Jesse recorded for Capitol in the 1950s; these recordings displayed Jesse’s trademark mandolin cross-picking style (simulating banjo rolls with a flat-pick), which would inspire generations of mandolin and flat-picking guitar players. Jesse is also known for his split-string playing (fretting each of a pair of strings on different frets to play harmonies). In the 1960s, the brothers’ association with the Epic label coincided with a more commercial orientation, leading to an album of Chuck Berry songs entitled Berry Pickin’ in the Country and recordings with a definite country flavor such as the hit song “Diesel on My Tail.” During this period the duo’s recordings featured some electric instrumentation. In the early 1970s, the brothers returned to a more traditional bluegrass sound. Jim and Jesse and their band, the Virginia Boys, continued as one of the major groups in bluegrass, touring the festival circuit and frequently releasing albums for a variety of labels, including their own company, Old Dominion Records. The brothers received the national Heritage Fellowship in 1997. Jesse McReynolds has also been associated with the Masters, a bluegrass “supergroup” that includes fiddler Kenny Baker, banjo player and guitarist Eddie Adcock, and dobro player Buck “Uncle Josh” Graves. Jim McReynolds died December 31, 2002.  

Cite this Entry

MLA Style

"Jim and Jesse," Encyclopedia of Appalachia, 2017, Encyclopedia of Appalachia. 29 Mar 2017 <http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=218>

APA Style

"Jim and Jesse." (2017) In Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Retrieved March 29, 2017, from Encyclopedia of Appalachia: http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=218

Jim and Jesse