Jim & Jesse

Jim & Jesse were an American bluegrass music duo composed of brothers Jim McReynolds (February 13, 1927 – December 31, 2002) and Jesse McReynolds (born July 9, 1929). The two were born and raised in Carfax, a community near Coeburn, Virginia. Their grandfather, Charles McReynolds, had led the band "The Bull Mountain Moonshiners" who recorded at the famous Bristol Sessions in 1927.


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. They played with their backing band, The Virginia Boys, consisting of five-string banjo, fiddle and bass. The Virginia Boys have included a who's who of famous musicians such as famed fiddler Vassar Clements, banjo great Allen Shelton, Mike Scott, Vic Jordan, Bobby Thompson, Carl Jackson, fiddle great Jimmy Buchanan, Glen Duncan, Jesse's oldest son, the late Keith McReynolds, Randall Franks and many more.

Since the death of brother Jim, Jesse has gone on with their famous Virginia Boys band. He has continued in the bluegrass music tradition and has added other genres of music to his repertoire. His present show includes Chuck Berry and Grateful Dead songs. Jesse participated in a tribute to Jerry Garcia & Robert Hunter released in 2010 on Woodstock Records. It features Jerry's friends David Nelson and Sandy Rothman, along with Stu Allen, of the present Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band. The album is titled: "Jesse McReynolds & Friends Tribute to Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter ~ Songs of the Grateful Dead." Jesse's present band lineup includes Keith's son, Garrett McReynolds as tenor singer/rhythm guitarist. On special occasions Jesse takes out the historic fiddle his grandfather played on the Bristol Sessions, and lets grandson Luke McKnight do the crosspicking that Jesse created. Rounding out the group is Travis Wetzel on fiddle, Gary Reece on banjo, and Larry Carney on guitar. This musical tradition continues on, entertaining fans all over the world.

Record releases and awards

In 1952, Jim & Jesse were signed to their first major label, Capitol Records. They have also recorded for Columbia Records, Epic Records 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. 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.

Their numerous 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, presented by Hillary Clinton and Jane Alexander at The White House on September 23, 1997.

Jim and Jesse joined producers Randall Franks and Alan Autry for the In the Heat of the Night (TV Series) cast CD "Christmas Time's A Comin'" performing "Christmas Time's A Comin'" with the cast on the CD released on Sonlite and MGM/UA for one of the most popular Christmas releases of 1991 and 1992 with Southern retailers. Jesse also added his mandolin talents to a vocal performance of "Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella" by the late TV legend Carroll O'Connor.

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.

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

A record setting career for the duo ends

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, ending the longest active professional brother duet in country music history - 55 years.

Jesse has carried on the Jim & Jesse tradition and continues to play The Grand Ole Opry & special dates with his band, as well as being a guest with other groups. He lives in Gallatin, TN.