Jim Shumate was a North Carolina Heritage Award winner from Wilkes County, N.C. He was the first fiddler to record with Flatt and Scruggs, and an influential player in the early development of bluegrass music, notably contributing the “fiddle kickoff” to the genre’s repertoire. Below you’ll find an excerpt about Shumate from the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina Guidebook, followed by an early example of one of his famous fiddle kickoffs.
Jim Shumate (1930-2014) was born in northern Wilkes County and learned to play the fiddle from an uncle who lived nearby. He spent his teenage years working in the furniture factories until he had a lucky break. Bill Monroe was traveling through the area and happened to hear Shumate on Hickory’s WHKY. Impressed, he called and offered the young man a job. Shumate played with the Blue Grass Boys from 1943 to 1945, while Howdy Forrester was serving in World War II. He is credited with inventing the iconic “fiddle kickoff,” a way of leading into a song with a few staccato notes and a short instrumental. Shumate is also credited with introducing Bill Monroe to Earl Scruggs in 1945. After Flatt and Scruggs left to form their own group in 1948, they hired Shumate to play on their first recording session. He can be heard on one of their earliest and best-known recordings, “My Cabin in Caroline.”