Music & Dance
JESSE McREYNOLDS and THE VIRGINIA BOYS
Raised in the small community of Carfax, located near Coeburn, Virginia, Jesse McReynolds grew up in a family steeped in traditional mountain music. His father played fiddle, as did the rest of his relatives. His mother played a bit on the guitar. Jesse’s grandfather, Charlie McReynolds, was one of the first to record for RCA Records in Bristol, Virginia in 1927 after answering an ad calling for musicians.
Jesse played with his older brother Jim at the local functions around town. At their very first public performance, an annual talent contest at the high school, they were awarded First Place.
Their harmony was exceptional, a rarity some say that only brothers can produce. Jim's enhanced high tenor combined with Jesse's deep lead and unique mandolin style set this duo apart in the world of traditional music, now termed Bluegrass. Very early in their career, Jesse developed a "McReynolds style" technique on the mandolin, combining his invention of "cross-picking and split-string playing", which distinguished his picking from others.
Jim returned from military service in 1947 at about the time a new local radio station was going on the air. Jim knew the station manager so he gave the brothers a chance to play on the station. Jim & Jesse made a number of appearances on radio around the country at the time, and shortly afterward, the McReynolds Brothers and the Cumberland Mountain Boys were formed. Soon shortened to the McReynolds Brothers on the advice of a record executive, they eventually became known as Jim & Jesse and the Virginia Boys.
In 1952, Jim & Jesse debuted on their first major label, Capitol Records, and have since recorded for various labels including: Columbia, Epic, again for Capitol, Opryland, CMH, Rounder, and their own, Old Dominion.
In the early '60s Jim & Jesse were invited on as guest hosts of The Grand Ole Opry. This led to their membership on March 2, 1964 and their move to Gallatin, Tennessee in 1964.
Jim and Jesse’s honors include induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame's "Walkway of Stars", the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame, IBMA's Hall of Honor, and Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Individually and collectively they garnered many Grammy nominations. They received the National Heritage Fellowship Award - our nation's most prestigious honor in folk and traditional arts - from the National Endowment for the Arts, presented by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jane Alexander at the The White House, September 23, 1997.
Jim passed away in 2002, ending the longest active professional brother duet in country music history: 55 years.
Jesse has carried on the Jim & Jesse tradition and has since gone on to play throughout the world with the Virginia Boys, which remains a family band as Jesse’s grandchildren Amanda McReynolds (vocals), Garrett McReynolds (guitar) and Luke McKnight (bass) make up half the band. Jim Buchanon (himself a veteran of bluegrass and country music, and who at 11 appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show) and Gary Reece provide fiddle and banjo, respectively, for the Virginia Boys.