Jim & Jesse McReynolds

bluegrass musicians, Gallatin
National Heritage Fellowship (1997)

Brothers Jim (1927-2002) and Jesse (1929- ) McReynolds were raised in a very musical family in the southwestern Virginia mountains. They sang and played together from an early age, developing their variations on the brother-duet pairing popular at the time, with Jim playing guitar and singing tenor and Jesse playing mandolin and singing lead. They pursued professional aspirations by the late 1940s, playing radio stations and live performances through the South, adopting the acoustic ensemble format of the then-new bluegrass style and becoming known for close vocal harmonies. In 1964 they moved to the Nashville area to join the Grand Ole Opry and with their Virginia Boys enjoyed success as one of the top groups in the burgeoning bluegrass style, aided by a distinctive repertory and Jesse’s innovative mandolin playing. Since Jim’s death, Jesse has continued to be musically active, often performing with younger members of his family.

More Information

  • Cardwell, Nancy, “Jesse McReynolds – The Next Chapter,” Bluegrass Unlimited 38, #12 (June 2004): 30-34.
  • Ewing, Tom, “Jim & Jesse – 50 Years and the Future is Just Beginning,” Bluegrass Unlimited 32, #1 (July 1997): 16-21.
  • Govenar, Alan, Masters of Traditional Arts: A Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2001), pp. 424-25, 726.
  • Kingsbury, Paul, ed. The Encyclopedia of Country Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 264-65.
  • Rosenberg, Neil V., Bluegrass: A History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), pp. 314-25.
  • Stubbs, Eddie, “ Jim McReynolds, 1927-2002, “Bluegrass Unlimited 37, # 8 (Feb 2003): 24-25.
  • Willis, Barry R. America’s Music: Bluegrass (Franktown, CO: Pine Valley Music, 1992), pp. 204-9.