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JIM McREYNOLDS of JIM & JESSE Dies at Age 75


Jim McReynolds, the older half of Jim & Jesse died December 31, 2002 in Gallatin, Tennessee, of cancer. He was 75. His death brings to an end one of the most durable and influential brother acts in bluegrass and country music. James Monroe McReynolds was born Feb. 13, 1927, in Carfax, Virginia. His brother, Jesse Lester, arrived two years later. The brothers'grandfather, Charles McReynolds, was a fiddler who recorded with the Bull Mountain Moonshiners for Victor Records on the famed Bristol sessions that launched the recording careers of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family.


In 1947, after serving a two-year term in the Army, McReynolds returned to his home state and, with his brother, secured a daily radio show in Norton, Virginia. Over the next five years, they worked at a succession of stations across the South and Midwest. The McReynolds, joined by singer Larry Roll, made their first records in 1951 in Middletown, performing as the Virginia Trio. The following year, they began recording for Capitol Records, backed by a studio band that included James Loden who would soon go on to solo fame as Sonny James. One of their early cuts for Capitol was Are You Missing Me. While the song did not chart, it went on to become a bluegrass classic and a staple in their stage shows.


In 1964, Jim & Jesse, by then recording for Epic Records, scored their first chart hit with Cotton Mill Man. The same year, the brothers became members of the Grand Ole Opry. While Jim & Jesse would continue to chart intermittently until 1986 (when they had the minor hit, Oh Louisiana), their biggest single came in 1967 with Diesel On My Tail, which reached #18.


Although legitimately categorized as a bluegrass act, Jim & Jesse were known for their musical openness. They recorded an entire album of Chuck Berry songs in 1965, 'Berry Pickin'in the Country.'Jim & Jesse were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Honor in 1993. In 1997, they were awarded the National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. A memorial service was held Saturday January 4, 2003 in Gallatin, Tennessee, but Jim McReynolds was buried back in Virginia.


Jim & Jesse’s complete Capitol recordings are on '1952-1955' and their complete Epic recordings are on 'Bluegrass and More’, a 5-CD boxed set.


(with acknowledgements to Edward Morris at

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