Jim Eanes (Homer Robert Eanes)

Jim Eanes

Jim Eanes

Homer Robert Eanes Jnr., 6 December 1923, Mountain Valley, Henry County, Virginia, USA, d. 21 November 1995, Martinsville, Virginia, USA. His early musical interest came from his father, a talented banjo player, who ran a local band. When only six months old, he suffered severe burns to his left hand that left the fingers twisted, but as a boy he developed a style of playing that, after an operation in 1937, enabled him to become a fine guitarist. He played in his father’s band, appeared on local radio, where he acquired the name of Smilin’ Jim Eanes (Homer seemed unsuitable) and in 1939, became the vocalist for Roy Hall’s Blue Ridge Entertainers, until Hall’s death in a car crash in 1943. Between 1945 and 1949, he worked with the Blue Mountain Boys on theTennessee Barn Dance on WNOX Knoxville and recorded with them in New York. He briefly joined Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, when they formed their first Foggy Mountain Boys, before finally moving to Nashville to join Bill Monroe. He began to write songs during his time at Knoxville, the first being his now well-known ‘Baby Blue Eyes’, and when, in 1949, he won a Capitol talent competition, it was one of the first songs he recorded. Another song, co-written at the same time with Arthur Q. Smith, was ‘Wedding Bells’, which Eanes first sang on theBarn Dance in 1947. The song’s ownership moved to Claude Boone, when it failed to raise interest with the listeners; he subsequently passed it on to Hank Williams, for whom it became a number 2 country hit. (Arthur Q. Smith, wrote several songs which he sold to artists and Eanes assisted with some of them and should not be confused with either Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith or Arthur ‘Guitar Boogie’ Smith.)

In 1951, Eanes formed his famous Shenandoah Valley Boys and recorded for Blue Ridge. He achieved considerable success with the war song ‘Missing In Action’ (again co-written with Arthur Q. Smith), which sold in excess of 400, 000 copies and led to him signing for Decca Records, where he recorded his popular ‘I Cried Again’, ‘Rose Garden Waltz’ and ‘Little Brown Hand’ (the next year, Ernest Tubb’s Decca recording of ‘Missing In Action’ reached number 3 in the US country charts). He moved to Starday in 1956, finding success with his own songs ‘Your Old Standby’ (recorded by George Jones on several occasions) and ‘I Wouldn’t Change You If I Could’ (a number 1 US country hit for Ricky Skaggs in 1983). He also made a recording of ‘The Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane’, which is rated by some as the best recorded version of this old song. Throughout the 60s and 70s, Eanes was occupied with performing, recording, songwriting and work on various radio stations, including, in 1967, a spell on the Wheeling Jamboree.

During the 70s, Eanes was also much in demand as an MC for festivals and shows. In 1978, he suffered a severe heart attack but a year later embarked on a European tour (these tours were a regular occurrence and by 1990, he had completed nine, and during one recorded an album with a Dutch country band). He formed an outfit in 1984, underwent heart surgery in 1986, but as soon as possible was back entertaining and singing, as always, a mixture of bluegrass, gospel and country material. In the early 90s, emphysema caused Eanes major problems but, in spite of a general deterioration in his health, he continued to make some local appearances and even completed an album with his old friend Bobby Atkins. He finally died of congestive heart failure in the Blue Ridge Center, Martinsville, Virginia, on 21 November 1995, and is buried at Martinsville’s Roselawn Burial Park. His fine vocals and songwriting over the years earned Jim Eanes the universal nickname of The Bluegrass Balladeer.

Born

  • December, 06, 1923
  • Henry County, Virginia

Died

  • November, 21, 1995
  • Martinsville, Virginia

Cause of Death

  • Heart attack

Cemetery

  • Roselawn Burial Park
  • Martinsville, Virginia

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