Jesse McReynolds Interview: The Early Days Part 2

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A extended interview with Jesse McReynolds
conducted by Jim Moss 2-7-99: Part 2

For Reference I have listed the earlier parts:

A extended interview with Jesse McReynolds Part 1

A extended interview with Jesse McReynolds Part 3

A extended interview with Jesse McReynolds Part 4

NOTE: If permission to reprint this is granted by owner, each part must presented
in its entirety with the "by line" and URL ""


Jim Moss:  After you started playing, how often did you include an electric bass?

Jesse McReynolds: Oh yeah, we always use electric bass.  We didn't have electric bass
in our first band.  After we moved to Florida in 1955 we started using electric bass.
And we have used them off and on, but basically uh, except for our recording, we have
used electric bass on some of them, but a lot of them we used the stand up bass.
the stand up bass to record with, Junior Huskey and..

Jim Moss:  How do you feel about using electric bass?

Jesse McReynolds:  Well, we tried uh acoustic bass back...  a couple of years there.
About a year there, Tom Ewing, he uh lived next door to me.  After Bill (Monroe) died
his band went in different directions.  So Tom started playing bass with us.. bout a year..
it didn't work out.

Jim Moss:  The sound you mean?

Jesse McReynolds:  Yeah,

Jim Moss: uh huh.

Jesse McReynolds:  Well, what I run into is all the acoustic bass players now, and he started
doing the same thing, he would play an acoustic bass, but he would still run it through an amplifier.
I thought well...  They said, everybody was doing that. I said, why use an acoustic bass if your
going to run it through an amplifier?  that was what we used.

Jim Moss:  So the problem you had with it was the size?  Most people have a problem with
acoustic bass due to the size when they go to travel.

Jesse McReynolds:  Well, no..  That didn't really bother me much.  Its just hard to find someone
that really...  that really can handle acoustic bass.  We had a problem with that. But after we got
back .. the boy we have playing electric bass with us now, I think, Matthew Aldridge...  He's one of
the best bass players we have ever had in our band.  I don't never have to worry about him having
a problem with the sound people or uh, worry about him draggin... which a lot of them will because
they try to get too far away from you on the stage...  and it just works out a lot better for us.
Jim Moss:  Is this your birthday?

Jesse McReynolds:  Well, Friday will be.

Jim Moss:  How old are you going to be?

Jesse McReynolds:   70

Jim Moss:  That's not bad at all. Isn't Baker like 73?  You're pretty young.

Jesse McReynolds:  Well, yeah...  I got old too quick.

Jim Moss:  Well, I was interested in a couple of things.  Your mandolin...
Tell me something about your mandolin.  Its white, right?  Did you take the finish off?

Jesse McReynolds:  No it was built that way. Lou Stiver built this.  He builds a lot of
mandolins, but I think he built 2 or 3 like that.  Just left the raw finish on it. It was that
way when I bought it.  I got it...  about....  twenty two years now I think I've been playing it.

Jim Moss:  Right, I think you played it on my album Tanyards, when we recorded that.

Jesse McReynolds:  Yeah, we did.

Jim Moss:  What is your...  most people play Loars, right?

Jesse McReynolds:  Well, I've tried a few Loars, first thing I think they are too expensive.
They are worth too much to carry on the road.  I just have never found one that ah...
would do ...  I haven't found anything that would do as good as the Stiver has.   Not for
my style of playing.

Jim Moss:  What do you look for in a good mandolin?

Jesse McReynolds:  I just look for sustaining on the high notes, really.
Which a lot of them don't have.  I got uh... I tried..   Well, I got an old
Gibson, but uh...  it was converted from a 4 to a 5.  Its got a lot of depth
to it, but the high strings don't balance out... for cross picking as good as
the Stiver does.   I got ah...  Well, the one I'm playing... as I say they are
all different. And the on one I'm playing has got good sustaining notes on
the highs where I can go back to the 12th or 13th fret and still get a
sustained note on it.  From what I understand the mandolins I've played
don't do that.

Jim Moss:  Actually, it is something that other styles of mandolin playing
don't really require.

Jesse McReynolds:  Yeah, some of them look for a good chop on them.
Course they would use a hard pick, and I use a medium pick.  That makes
a big difference. That's why I can play one that uh.. don't sound too good
to me, someone else can take it and play it with one of those stiff picks
and it makes a difference...  a big difference in the tone that it produces.
Mine, it just fits me for my playing better than anything I've found.

Jim Moss:  Yeah, it sounds great.  It cuts.  I think a lot of people look
for that real throaty sound.

Jesse McReynolds:  Yeah.

Jim Moss:  In a more, Monroe style.

Jesse McReynolds:  Yeah, most of them, look for the.. more Monroe style
more... Just like John Duffy played mine a little bit, now he couldn't get
nothing more than a rattle out of it.

Jim Moss:  hah, ha ha

Jesse McReynolds:  He said, this is the worst mandolin I ever tried to play!  ha ha
Well, I couldn't play your either! ha ha
I had to play Bills a few times you know...  Before Bill passed away.  Tom Ewing was
playing with him.  and uh... He had Bill's mandolin over there a couple of times.
He brought it just for me to play a little bit.  I should have done some recording with it.
but uh... I tried to play it a little bit.  I couldn't get much out of it.  Not like Bill did.

To be continued
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