Ozarks bluegrass musician and humorist Mitch Jayne died on August 2 in Columbia, Missouri. He was 82 years old. Jayne was born in Indiana, and as a young man taught in one-room schoolhouses in Dent County, Missouri. There he collected the unusual and archaic language preserved in the speech of many of his students, including a six-year-old who said of his own father, “He principally farms, and when he isn’t farming he sits on the porch and plays the fiddle, just to beguile the time.”
Around 1960 Jayne set out for California with friends Douglas and Rodney Dillard and mandolinist Dean Webb. On that trip, in the back of Webb’s Cadillac, Jayne learned to play the bass. The four young men, performing as the Dillards, soon landed a regular gig playing at the Ash Grove Folk Club in Los Angeles. They were signed to a contract with Elektra, and began a famous TV career when they appeared as the musical Darling brothers in The Andy Griffith Show. Among the Darlings’ most memorable songs were Jayne’s own compositions, “Dooley” and “There is a Time.”
After he stopped performing regularly with the Dillards, Jayne went on to a successful career as a regional humorist, with his Hickory Holler Time radio show, broadcast on KSMO from Salem, Missouri. He published several novels, and received the Missouri Governor’s Humanities Book Award. In 2009, the Dillards were inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.