Jim Lloyd is a barber, musician, and storyteller, who lives, works, and plays in Rural Retreat, Virginia. Lloyd doesn’t fit in a single neat category as musician or entertainer. Much like Doc Watson, his mountain upbringing provided a much more eclectic background that just the traditional music they mastered, including the pop and jazz they heard on radio and records. Jim, further, never made a choice between bluegrass and old-time, between open back and resonator banjos, between overhand and Scruggs style banjo playing. He never made a choice between banjo and guitar, those just the most frequently used of the several instruments he has mastered.
Jim Lloyd is an Appalachian barber, musician, presenter, music teacher, banjo historian, and radio host whose accomplishments go on and on in old-time, bluegrass, storytelling, and organizing. His latest release, Play Guitar in Seven Days, captures the Doc Watson-like variety of music that he interprets through his mountain lens. The selections range from traditional ballads (“Darlin’ Corey”) to jazz (“St. James Infirmary”) and country (“Crazy) classics to bluegrass (“Amelia Earhart”) and even 1960s pop (“Little Red Riding Hood”).
A multi-instrumentalist best known for his banjo and guitar work, Jim’s musical roots extend back through at least four generations of fiddlers, guitar players, dancers and singers from the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. His uncle Buddy Pennington played banjo with Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys in 1958 and 1959.
The different musical groups in which Jim has played are as diverse as his entertainment and playing skills. In his youth, Jim was selected as part of a 300 person troupe that performed in the Marti Gras (Carnaval) in Nice, France. In 1989, after playing with the Willow Hollow String Band, he joined one of the most acclaimed old-time string bands of the late 20th Century as guitarist for The Konnarock Critters. An editorial review by Amazon.com of their 2002 O Sister album gushed:
“The Konnarock Critters are considered among the all-time best ‘old-time’ string bands to carry on the tradition and heritage of music handed down through generations. ‘Old-Time’ music is as natural as breathing to The Critters. Their brand of high-energy music dynamic structure of fiddle claw hammer banjo guitar and bass built on rock solid rhythm has resulted both individually and collectively in being awarded championship status by their peers winning many of the tunes. The Critters offer up a basket full of select tunes and songs that are sweet delicious and polished to a high luster.”
During 1994 and 1995, Lloyd produced and hosted a live performance series, “Blue Ridge Back Roads,” on powerful commercial radio station WBRF from Galax, Virginia. He followed that by hosting the syndicated “Living Traditions” for three years on some fifty public radio stations. While a Critter, Jim became Music Director for the Living Traditions Series at the William King Regional Arts Center in Abington, VA. This led to him helping organize an Internet concert by the Konnarock Critters from Virginia Tech way back in 1996.
Another of his projects was setting up the stage and directing the first season at the Draper Mercantile as they restored the old store building and opened to present the Appalachian culture to western Virginia. He asked his good friends, Herb Keys and Wayne Henderson to join him on the first performance at “The Merc”.
After the Critters, Jim has frequently played as a solo. With his trio, Jim Lloyd and the Skyliners, he recorded the well-received Songs From My Attic on Mountain Roads Records. Bluegrass Unlimited wrote that:
This is a fine program by folks who just sit down, sing, and play with honesty. “Valentines’ Day” features some nice twin guitar on the break. The inclusion of Fats Waller’s “Feet’s Too Big” really shows off Rose’s bass playing and a side of Jim Lloyd that often gets overlooked by the light his personality casts. This is recommended to all fans of honest, no pretense, old-time music.
In addition to active solo work in recent years, Lloyd has been a member of the Wilkes County, North Carolina-based Elkville String Band with his friend and fellow Wayne Henderson-associate Herb Key.
His duo with Trevor McKenzie has been extremely well received. Jim plays in The Fruit Dodgers band led by Rural Retreat’s musical wunderkind, Elizabeth LaPrelle. He has appeared several times on the public TV series “Song of the Mountains” with Acoustic Mayhem. He has made music with the old-time supergroup Costa, Campbell, and Lloyd. In 2001, the trio released Costa & Campbell with amazing Jim Lloyd: old time music of Uncle Dave Macon, Emmett Lundy and Ed Haley. Since the start of this century he has performed with the Mountain Fling band on banjo, appearing on their 2004 album, Tunes from the Tailgate. They play parlor music often associated with the Carter Family and other early mid-20th century artists. The bluegrass world knows Jim as the guitarist backing up banjoist Carl Johnson, the best known African-American bluegrass-style picker.
Jim is an excellent instrumentalist whose work has been documented by the Smithsonian Institute as representative of southwestern Virginia mountain music and story-telling. While accomplished on many instruments, he is known especially for his skills on guitar (finger picking style) and banjo (claw hammer and two-finger styles). Jim shares his heritage not only by performing, but as a teacher to many local students ranging from ages 6 to 70 on basically anything with strings, particularly guitar, banjo, mandolin, and fiddle.
Lloyd’s performance credits include Seedtime on the Cumberland, Augusta Heritage Week at Davis & Elkins College, the Swannanoa Gathering, Elon College, Oldsongs Festival, IBMA’s World of Bluegrass, Blue Ridge Music Center, the John C. Campbell Folk School, Dollywood, and Berea College. Jim has performed on the venerable public radio series “Mountain Stage,” Birthplace of Country Music Alliance, Minnesota Old-Time and Bluegrass Festival, Floyd Country Store, and the Highland Games, as well as holding workshops throughout Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, Minnesota, and yes, England.