Jesse Winchester

Jesse Winchester (born James Ridout Winchester), singer, songwriter, guitarist, pianist, naturalized Canadian 1973 (born 17 May 1944 in Shreveport, LA; died 11 April 2014 in Charlottesville, VA). Raised in Memphis, he began his career during the mid-1960s in Germany.

Winchester, Jesse

Jesse Winchester (born James Ridout Winchester), singer, songwriter, guitarist, pianist, naturalized Canadian 1973 (born 17 May 1944 in Shreveport, LA; died 11 April 2014 in Charlottesville, VA). Raised in Memphis, he began his career during the mid-1960s in Germany. In 1967 he went to Montreal to evade the US draft, a fact that has lent his career a certain notoriety. After playing with the Astronautes in Quebec, and while appearing as a solo performer in coffeehouses throughout eastern Canada, he was discovered by Robbie Robertson (then of The Band). Winchester made his first album, the acclaimed Jessie Winchester (which included his classic 'Yankee Lady,' 'Brand New Tennessee Waltz,' and 'Biloxi') with Robertson as producer, and subsequently toured in Canada as an opening act for The Band.

Despite the popularity of this and subsequent LPs in the USA, Winchester was unable to perform there until the amnesty of 1977. Instead he continued to appear in Canadian coffeehouses and concert halls and in 1976 toured in Europe. After a performance 4 May 1977 at the Bottom Line in New York, he began to tour and record in the USA, nevertheless maintaining his Montreal home and Canadian itinerary. His recording of 'Say What' was modest international hit in 1981.

A reluctant performer - he announced his retirement from the stage in 1990 - Winchester is best known for his songs, melodically graceful and often wistful narratives that have been recorded by Joan Baez, Jimmy Buffett, the Everly Brothers, Fairport Convention, Tim Hardin, Emmylou Harris, Ronnie Hawkins, Nicolette Larsen (whose version of 'Rhumba Boy' was a hit in 1979), Ian Matthews, Colleen Peterson, Tom Rush, Raffi, Wilson Pickett, and others. His own performances are in an understated, contemporary folk style with a country-gospel tinge.


Further Reading

  • MacGregor, Roy. 'Reb without a cause,' The Canadian, 9 Aug 1975