Unless you keep up with a lot of banjo players, you may not know Jimmy. After all, Jimmy Arnold is certainly not a household name. What did he ever do? The answer: in all my years of banjo playing, I’ve heard few people with as much raw talent for distinctive, stunning banjo breaks as Jimmy had.
Obviously there are other, more well-known banjo players: Earl Scruggs, Sonny Osborne, Bela Fleck, and Eric Weissberg of Dueling Banjos fame come to mind as being recognizable to the general public. To bluegrass aficionados, you should also add the names J. D. Crowe, Vic Jordan, Bobby Thompson, Bill Emerson, Alan Munde, Bill Keith, … the list is extensive.
But in my book, few others have that touch, that absolute skill with creativity, that Jimmy possessed, even thought they may have gone much farther and higher on the whole.
To my knowledge, he put out only a few records and never achieved great success with his music. I have his banjo album, Strictly Arnold, on vinyl and it has always been a special musical set.
Sadly, Jimmy died much too soon after a tragedy-filled life. Alcohol and broken relationships were a recurring theme in his life.
Today, we approach the 17th anniversary since he died suddenly in 1992 of a heart attack. I’ve heard the exact day as either Christmas Day or New Years day. Not sure which is right.
I just know I miss this good ‘ol southern boy and his music, as does everyone who knew him personally and professionally.