Jesse McReynolds is 80 today

Jesse McReynolds on WSFA in Montgomery, Alabama about 1962Jesse Lester McReynolds, mandolin player extraordinaire, celebrates his 80th birthday today (7/9/09).

Born in Coburn, Virginia, McReynolds, known for his innovative cross-picking and split-string styles of playing the mandolin, partnered his late brother, Jim, in the pioneering bluegrass band Jim and Jesse & the Virginia Boys, formed in 1947.

For the next 55 years the duo performed their original style of bluegrass music around the world, employing a number of equally innovative musicians and recording extensively. They were members of the Grand Ole Opry for over three decades and Jesse continues to perform regularly on that august stage.

In 1993 they were inducted into the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame and, in 1997, Jesse and Jim were presented with our nation’s highest honour in the folk and traditional arts, the National Heritage Fellowship Award. Jesse is a multiple Grammy nominee and award winner.

McReynolds is the co-winner of the IBMA Instrumental Recording, Mandolin Extravaganza and was nominated in 2005 for IBMA Instrumental Recording of the Year for his stellar collection of mostly original songs, Bending the Rules.

As well as being noted for his exceptional mandolin playing, Jesse McReynolds is a gifted songwriter and arranger, whose singing is immediately identifiable.

This year marks McReynolds’s 62nd anniversary in music, with his birthday celebrated at a festival in his honour on July 10 and 11 at his Pick Inn Music Park in Gallatin, Tennessee.

In 1984, while in London, England, Jesse McReynolds was interviewed by John Baldry and the late Jan Jerrold for British Bluegrass News. You can read that interview online.

Here’s a classic clip of Jim & Jesse from 1976.

Happy Birthday Jesse!

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics.

A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe.

He wrote the annotated series I’m On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.