Jim and Bob

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This group was a major influence on generations of guitarists, especially those who play any kind of slide guitar. Jim & Bob, better known as the Genial Hawaiians, recorded a series of sides in the '20s…
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This group was a major influence on generations of guitarists, especially those who play any kind of slide guitar. Jim & Bob, better known as the Genial Hawaiians, recorded a series of sides in the '20s and '30s that tend to be standout numbers on various compilations of Hawaiian guitar or slide guitar. This was a style of music that came about indirectly after the invention of the dobro, originally a metal-bodied guitar with anywhere from one to three cone resonators inside. It was originally designed to be loud enough to cut through a big band, but use of the banjo and more importantly the electric guitar made it obsolete in that regard. The instrument had no problem carving out its own niche in several different styles of music, and has been a steady presence in American musical styles ever since.

In the 1920s and '30s, the Hawaiian guitarists Sol Hoopii and Bob Kaii -- that's the Bob from Jim & Bob -- recorded tracks that were considered masterpieces on the National tricone, a metal guitar whose three interlinked resonators gave it an especially attractive sound. Of the two players, Hoopii had the more prominent career, pioneering many of the first tuning variations and playing on several different styles of lap steels, a solid-body electric instrument that looks a bit like a miniature gravestone for guitars. Despite the great recordings of Jim & Bob, including the miraculous "Chimes," a terrific "St. Louis Blues," and one of the greatest versions of "Home on the Range" ever recorded, the personal histories of the duo remain mysterious. Kaii is considered so obscure that Hawaiian music scholars are apparently just guessing at his last name, while no such effort was even made for his partner, who remains known simply as Jim.

Many players feel the duo's technique was never topped. Leon McAuliffe, the great slide guitarist who played with the pre-World War II Bob Wills Western swing band, has mentioned repeatedly in interviews that Jim & Bob were two of biggest inspirations, and it is doubtful that he is talking about the "Jim-Bob" that ran the service station down the street from him in Amarillo. Dobro kingpin Stacy Phillips had this to say about his favorite pickers, a typical reflection on this duo's mysterious identities: "My favorite resonator players are Bob Dunn, Buck Graves, and the guy Bob from Jim & Bob, the Genial Hawaiians."