Slide maestro Jimmy Heffernan has released his first ever single this week, a surprising factoid for a man who as worked as a professional musician since 1974. It’s a resurrected version of a Bill Monroe classic, with the late Joe Diffie singing lead.
Heffernan has worked his whole life as a sideman, with his first high profile gig coming with Larry Sparks in 1980. From there he played reso-guitar with Red Allen, and with Bill Grant and Delia Bell, while also developing proficiency on both electric guitar and pedal steel. That led to a job with Diffie during the height of his career, which saw Jimmy play all over the world, and on television and the Grand Ole Opry.
After eight years with Joe, Jimmy had made Nashville his home, and kept a good living playing banjo, reso-guitar, and pedal steel as a session player in town. But it wasn’t long before the call of the road fired up again, and he took a job with Brad Paisley. These days he mostly works as a producer and a reso-guitar instructor.
It’s rare to find an artist who has reached these pinnacles of success in both bluegrass and country, and Jimmy Heffernan is one of them for sure.
During the touring shutdowns last year, he started working on an album, I’d Trade It All for a Little More, which showcases the various styles of music he loves, primarily bluegrass and swing. He says that at this stage in his life, he can reflect on all the good fortune that has come his way.
“I have been so blessed in my musical life. Larry Sparks gave me my first job in bluegrass, and Joe Diffie gave me my first job in country music, and it kept going from there. Mike Auldridge’s first record introduced me to the rest of my life, and then he asked me to come over his house to play Dobro. Charlie Louvin fired a guitar player while cussing him out saying, ‘You can’t sing or play.’ On his way out of the room he leaned over to me and said, ‘And you… you can pick.’
I’ve been on the Opry stage too many times to count and made lifelong friendships with Craig “Flash” Fletcher and Dennis Parker as we crisscrossed the country too many times to count. This record is a labor of deep and abiding love of country music and the people who play it. Yet, I would trade it all for a little more…”
Today’s single is Bill Monroe’s When The Golden Leaves Begin To Fall, which features his old boss out front. Bluegrass fans in Oklahoma remember that Joe was a grasser as well before moving into country in the 1980s. They are supported by Jim Hurst on guitar, Andy May on mandolin, Brian Wickland on fiddle, and Scott Vestal on banjo. Jimmy plays Dobro and sings harmony, joined by Dennis Parker.