The North Carolina Visitor Center




Jimmy Capps

Jimmy Capps

NC native - Living Legend

Over the last 50 years countless guitarists have  come to Nashville with $5.00 in their pockets and  their guitars slung over their backs in hopes of making their dream a reality.  Only a chosen few ever made it!  Especially those whose "fingerprints" are left on #1 hit recordings.  Guitar great Jimmy Capps is one of the chosen few.

For years now, Jimmy has been turning songs he's never heard before into hits...and in some cases even 'classics'.

These timeless classics include:

  • "Stand By Your Man" - Tammy Wynette
  • "He Stopped Loving Her Today" - George Jones
  • "The Rose" - Conway Twitty
  • "The Gambler" - Kenney Rogers
  • "The Lighthouse - The Hensons

As one of Country Music's finest guitar players, Jimmy Capps is a 'master of smoothness'.  He is known in the studio for his ability to move flawlessly from electric to acoustic' with a polished and refined touch that he brings to every recording or performance he is a part of.

When you hear the richness and grace of his acoustic intros on "The Gambler"(K.Rogers)..."how Blue" (Reba)..."Near You" (George & Tammy"...After All These Years" (B.Mandrell)...and on Conway Twitty's "I Don't know A Thing About comes as no surprise that this gifted guitarist can easily alternate into his more distinctive electrifying sounds that you hear on the intros of Waylon's "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man"...Terri Gibbs' "Somebody's Knockin'"...Charley Pride's Honky Tonk Blues"...or The Louvins Brothers "Second Time Around"...just to name a few. 

Some other incredible recordings you can hear Jimmy on are Conway's "Red Neckin' Love Makin' Night..."Lost In The Feeling"..."Don't Call Him a Cowboy" Dottie West's "Killing Him Softly"...The Oaks' "Elvira" & "Sail Away"...Barbara Mandrells' "Sleeping Single In a Double Bed"...Alan Jackson's Here in The Real well as artists such as Andy Williams...Mac Davis...John Conlee, Janie Frickie...Moe Bandy...Joe Stampley...Billie Jo Spears...Freddie Hart...John Denver...Johnny Paycheck...and all of Ronnie Milsap's recordings through 1988.

At one time Jimmy averaged 520 recording sessions a year, yet he still took time to go to Belmont College to learn his craft even further, studying 'time evaluation' under John Pell.  But how did it all start for Jimmy Capps?

Born in Fayetteville, North Carolina to Alice and Tommy Capps, and raised in Benson.  He was inspired by champion fiddle-playing Uncle Lynn Cook who encouraged him to play guitar.  Hayden Ive, a picker friend of Jimmy's, gave up his own guitar and presented it as a gift to Jimmy.  The 12 year old took his first guitar and started working local dances.

He sang and played on WCKB-Dunn and in 1956.  Jimmy worked in both radio and TV in Florence, SC with a performer named Slim Mims.  He moved on to Wilson to work with another Slim (Short), and he played local clubs in Benson in a band called The Tar Heels.

But one audition in 1958 changed his life forever when he became the guitar player  for one of country music's all-time greatest duo-teams...The Louvin Brothers.  The story goes like this.

"When I auditioned for my job with the Louvin Brothers, their current guitar player had heard me working with a duet in North Carolina who sang all the Louvin Brother's songs, so I knew all the intros and turnarounds.  He'd heard me play and recommended me to the Louvins.

 So I went up to Burlington, North Carolina, and after the show, we went back to the hotel and I auditioned.  I did all their intros and turnarounds to the songs they auditioned me with and they seemed to like me pretty good, but, their guitar player...because I didn't use a thumbpick...didn't take to me too hot in person.  And then he asked me if I could play "Malaguena"?  I told him, "No I couldn't"

So he kind of turned his back to me and shunned me a little bit, and Charlie spoke up and said, "Well...Ira and I very seldom sing "Malaguena" we're gonna hire you anyhow!"

Thanks to Charlie...I guess I owe my whole career to him.  That one split-second decision that he made is the reason I'm here.  That decision made all the difference in my life."

Jimmy recalls when the Louvins were scheduled for a guest appearance on the Opry, he came down with double pneumonia.  He said, "No way am I going to miss the Opry if I die on the stage... I'm gonna work the Opry...just one time!  And he did!  He remembers playing "The Knoxville Girl".  but he was so scared Pete Wade had to help him plug his guitar into the amplifier.  Jimmy said that's one of his most cherished moments.  Of course his 'Just One Time" has turned into years of history on the hallowed stage.

Jimmy Capps has now been a member of the "Grand Ole Opry Staff Band" since 1967 (although it wasn't officially graced with that title at that point in time).

Jimmy said his guitar heroes were Grady Martin, Chet Atkins, Pete Wade, Billy Sanford, Ray Edenton on rhythm. Leon Rhodes , and Spider Wilson.

He said, "Seriously, I would get up early before I went to school and my Dad and I would listen to Spider play guitar on the radio with Big Jeff.  I didn't realize there wasn't that much difference in our ages.  Spider was going to school too, just like me.  But he is one of my heroes.  I've always admired him...and still do.  Leon is one of my heroes.  It's really wonderful to be able to work with your heroes like that.

All 11 of those heroes were honored on October 11, 1982 when the CMA nominated the "Grand Ole Opry Staff Band" for "Instrumental Group of The Year".

One of the neat studio stories Jimmy tells, is about recording a Christmas album with Conway Twitty.  He said Conway was in the vocal booth singing "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer", and he wasn't quite sure if he had the melody he stopped and said, "Guys would you play that 'demo' of "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" again"...and then he said, "Whoa..whoa! Wait a minute!  I know everyone here heard what I said and if anybody repeats it, it's a lie...when I called Gene Autry's record a ''demo' and it's sold 40 million copies! one tell that," and he knew everyone of us would.  But what a nice man he was.

I asked Jimmy what he considered his 'finest moments' in the studio.  He quickly answered, "My years with Owen Bradley, Billy Sherrill, and Larry Butler."  He said "When you left the studio after working with them, you knew you had contributed to a 'puzzle' that these masters would put together and you were a piece of that puzzle."

Jimmy has learned from the master producers the art of song production.  He has produced albums on the Wilburn Brothers, Jim & Jesse, Jan Howard, Roy Drusky, David Houston, and Stu Phillips.

Jimmy also produced his own album titled, "Jimmy Capps: His Guitar and Friends Making Memories." Jimmy said he used people on his album he loved to hear sing like Billy Walker, Charlie Louvin, The Osborne Brothers, Porter Wagoner, Jeannie Seeley.  Steve Wariner (who played and sang) and The Carol Lee Singers.  There are 10 more sides to be released.

Throughout his career, Jimmy Capps has received numerous awards from the "National Academy of Recording Arts & Science".  These are awards for 'playing on the most #1 hit recordings'...thus making him a member of the "NARAS Superpickers Band for the years 1978 & 1979.  In 1979 he was also voted "Most Valuable Acoustic player".

You've also heard and seen Jimmy play on 20 years of CMA Awards shows with Biill Walker Orchestra...Music City News Awards...People's Coice Awards...The Statler Brothers Show...Yesteryear...Good Ole Nashville Music...The Wilburn Brothers Show...Jim & Jesse syndicated tv Show...Grand Ole Opry Live... Opry Backstage... Country's Family Reunion... and Larry's Country Diner.

Jimmy went home to Benson, NC for a special performance, when he was surprised with and honor few people receive.  State Senator Charlie Albertson read Governor James Hunt's Proclamation declaring Monday May 25, 1998 "Jimmy Capps Appreciation Day"...and it was well deserved.

This high honor, along with so many accolades to this accomplished musician, once again demonstrates the caliber of personnel the World Famous Grand Ole Opry provides for you each and every Friday and Saturday night, and you can bet guitar great, Jimmy Capps will be there to hold it all together.

- Be sure to watch Larry's Country Diner and Country's Family Reunion on RFD TV each week, and visit to purchase Jimmy Capps - His Guitar and Old Friends - Making Memories.

Click the image below for a preview of Larry's Country Diner, featuring:

Jimmy Capps, Larry Black, Keith, Bilbrey, (the hilarious) Nadine, Renae, T. Graham Brown, The Whites, Ed Bruce, James Gregory, Bill Anderson, Gene Watson, Bobby Bare, John Conlee, Larry Gatlin and more!