Member Since 1964
Jesse McReynolds forged his reputation as a great mandolinist and singer as one-half of Jim & Jesse, one of the most talented and acclaimed acts in bluegrass music. Since brother Jim died late in 2002, Jesse has continued to fill listener demands for the great music of Jim & Jesse, while also striking out in new musical directions.
Inspired by the five-string banjo-playing of Hoke Jenkins, Jesse originated the complex “cross-picking” style of mandolin playing. His music combines bluegrass, mainstream country, rock, folk, pop, Spanish, and other styles. Even though he’s best known as a bluegrasser, Jesse has shown himself to be one of the most innovative and prolific mandolin players around.
Raised near Coeburn, Virginia, Jesse McReynolds grew up in a family steeped in traditional mountain music. That background made it natural for him to follow the footsteps of his grandfather, Charlie McReynolds, who was one of the first musicians to record for Victor, later RCA, in Bristol, Virginia, in 1927.
In 1952, Jesse and Jim made their major-label debut on Capitol Records. In 1967, three years after joining the Opry, the duo had a Top 20 country hit on Epic Records with “Diesel on My Tail.” They recorded for several other labels, including their own Old Dominion Records, releasing such classics as “The Flame of Love,” “Cotton Mill Man,” and “Paradise.”
The duo regularly made the country charts from the ’60s through the ’80s, with such tunes as “Better Times A-Coming,” “Ballad of Thunder Road,” “Freight Train,” “North Wind,” and “Oh Louisiana.” The brothers won induction into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Honor in 1993.
Whether working with or without Jim, Jesse has shown up in musical settings that cross a variety of genres. Jim & Jesse recorded one of the first bluegrass-rock crossovers in 1965, with their Chuck Berry tribute Berry Pickin’ in the Country. In 1969, the Doors’ Jim Morrison picked McReynolds to play mandolin on The Soft Parade. While working with banjoist Eddie Adcock, fiddler Kenny Baker, and Dobro player Josh Graves, Jesse recorded during the late ’80s and early ’90s as part of the Masters supergroup
Since completing what turned out to be Jim & Jesse’s last album, Tis Sweet to Be Remembered, Jesse has built a new edition of his backup band, the Virginia Boys. He released 2004’s New Horizons album, which featured the patriotic single “America on Bended Knees.” Jesse also recently recorded an instrumental album with fiddle wizard Travis Wetzel.
Jesse and his Virginia Boys still tour, performing frequently at bluegrass festivals, in addition to their regular Opry appearances. 2007 marked Jesse's 60th anniversary in music.