On Saturday, March 7, 2009, the family and friends of Jim Taylor were saddened to learn of his death. Jim died at his home in Mars Hill, North Carolina. He is survived by his wife Sheila Kay Adams of Mars Hill, his mother June, and sisters Cherrie Knight and Carol Irving of Charleston, South Carolina.
In Jim’s own words, “I was born and raised in Western North Carolina and have lived here most of my life. My older sisters both played piano, so I grew up playing the thing by ear in the lulls between their practices. Both sides of the family are musical. Mom’s parents had their own ragtime band that played all over the region. Her father was also a singing master in the shaped note tradition. My father had a fine baritone voice, as did his father. I first became interested in traditional music in the early 1980s when a friend let me borrow some Jean Ritchie albums and mountain dulcimer recordings. Soon afterward, I heard the hammered dulcimer and decided to learn to play it. I put together a kit and started learning tunes.”
Jim was an exemplary craftsman. He both built and played some of the finest hammered dulcimers in the country. His artistic skill earned him a membership in the Southern Highland Craft Guild. His recordings of traditional Appalachian music and music from the Civil War era are well respected amongst his peers and fans. Jim earned a Master’s Degree in American history, specializing in the Civil War. His presentations of the music of that era were both informative and engaging. Many people knew of Jim’s skills in historical research and instrumental performance. Not all knew that Jim was a singer for singers. His beautiful baritone voice sounded just right on “Pretty Saro” or “Going Across the Mountain.”
Jim often performed with his wife Sheila Kay. His musical accompaniment to her reading from her novel, My Old True Love, made the words on the page become pictures for the listeners of her prose. A soft-spoken true Southern gentleman has left us. He will be deeply missed.