Sounds of Virginia: Jim & Jesse
Jim & Jesse McReynolds were raised on a family farm in the small community of Carfax, near Coeburn, Virginia. The steep slopes and dark hollows of Wise County are steeped in traditional mountain music. The McReynolds brothers were immersed in this traditional music from birth. Their grandfather, Charlie McReynolds, was one of the mountain artists recorded during the historic sessions in nearby Bristol in 1927.
Jim & Jesse began playing professionally in 1947. Jim’s high tenor and guitar offset nicely with Jesse’s deep lead and unique mandolin style. Their harmonies were rich and full as is often the case with brother duets. In 1952 they landed their first contract with a major label, Capitol Records. Their first chart-climbing hit came in 1960 with a single released for Columbia. With the success of "The Flame of Love" / "Gosh I Miss You All The Time", Jim & Jesse were invited to replace the Stanley Brothers as hosts the Suwannee River Jamboree on radio station WNER in Live Oak, Florida. The show was syndicated throughout the southeast and Jim & Jesse became household names in the South.
Their band, the Virginia Boys, was always made up of some top notch musicians. For a short period fiddle great Vassar Clements was a member of the Virginia Boys. Jim & Jesse and the Virginia Boys toured extensively, including a world tour in the mid 1980s. As I mentioned above, they were very popular on the festival circuit, often headlining bigger festivals.
Of all the labels that they recorded for, including Capitol , Columbia, Epic, Opryland, CMH, and Rounder, I have always preferred the albums they released under their own Old Dominion label.
Tragically, both brothers were diagnosed with different types of cancer in 2002. Jim McReynolds passed away on December 31, 2002, ending the longest active professional brother duet in country music history. Jesse has continued to tour with the Virginia Boys.