The primary writer of many bluegrass standards (with brother Jim McReynolds sharing in composer credits) including:

  • “Border Ride”
  • “Drifting and Dreaming of You”
  • “Hard Hearted”
  • “I Will Always Be Waiting for You”
  • “Just Wondering Why”
  • “Pardon Me”
  • “Stoney Creek”
  • “Too Many Tears”

Early Influences

  • Claude and Charles McReynolds (father and grandfather, banjoist and fiddler)
    Savannah McReynolds (mother, guitarist)
    Oakley Greear (brother-in-law, fiddler)
    Carter Family
    Blue Sky Boys
    Monroe Brothers
    Delmore Brothers
    Bailes Brothers
    Sons of the Pioneers
    Louvin Brothers

Came to Fame With

  • Jim & Jesse and the Virginia Boys

Performed With

  • The McReynolds Brothers, Jesse and James, and the Cumberland Mountain Boys, 1947-1949, 1950-1952
  • Hoke Jenkins’ Smoky Mountaineers, Augusta, GA, 1949
  • The Virginia Trio, Middletown, OH, 1951
  • Jim & Jesse and the Virginia Boys, 1952-1953, 1954-2002
  • Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys and Girls, 2002-present

Led the Way

  • Inventor of “McReynolds style” mandolin playing, which few other players have attempted and none have yet mastered.
  • Introduced a smooth vocal harmony to bluegrass, bridging the brother duet and modern country styles.
  • Joined the Grand Ole Opry, 1964
  • Most Promising Vocal Duo, Record World, 1967
  • Bluegrass Hall of Fame, 1993
  • National Heritage Fellowship Award, 1997

By the Way

  • The longest active professional brother duet in country music history – 55 years.
  • Jesse’s grandfather, fiddler Charles McReynolds, recorded at the historic 1927 Bristol sessions as a member of the Bull Mountain Moonshiners.
  • At first, Jim played mandolin and Jesse guitar. When neither was making much progress, the brothers exchanged instruments.
  • A 1954 Capitol Records promotion booklet listed the following details about Jesse: height: 5’8″, black hair, grey eyes, weight: 145 lbs., single, favorite food: fried potatoes, favorite color: blue, favorite sports: fishing, hunting.
  • Played mandolin on The Doors’ album “The Soft Parade.”
  • Toured and recorded as a member of The Masters, a quartet of “superpickers” that included fiddler Kenny Baker, Dobro player Josh Graves and banjoist/guitarist Eddie Adcock.

From the Archives

“We grew up in a coal mine section in southwest Virginia… The entertainment we had back then was all live. My father’s brothers all played. My grandfather, Charlie McReynolds, was the fiddle player in the community… You’d walk down through the valley where he lived and you’d hear his fiddle playing."
Quoted by Dale Vinicur in liner notes to Jim & Jesse: 1952-1955, Bear Family Records, 1992.
“Our brother-in-law Oakley Greear (who was a good fiddle player) suggested that we try singing, since everyone else was only playing instrumental music.”
Quoted in liner notes to Songs from the Homeplace, Pinecastle Records, 1998.
“I like for a song to have more than the regular three chords… I try to do something different about every time I play.”
Quoted by Thomas Goldsmith in liner notes to In the Tradition, Rounder Records, 1987.