December 6, 1936 – December 1, 2009 Remembering Jack Cooke

Remembering Vernon Crawford (Jack) Cooke (December 6, 1936 – December 1, 2009) was a bluegrass music vocalist and instrumentalist, known for playing the guitar and bass with artists such as Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. He was a native of Norton, Virginia. Cooke was a cousin to old-time musician Dock Boggs, and Cooke’s father also played clawhammer banjo. He began playing guitar as a teenager and performed with his brothers and fiddler Kenny Baker as the Cooke Brothers before joining Carter and Ralph Stanley on bass. Between 1955-57 he worked with the brother duo on the radio show Farm and Fun Time on WCYB in Bristol, TN. In 1958 he joined Bill Monroe’s band, playing off and on for a period of four years. During his stint as a Blue Grass Boy, he played both guitar and bass although his main instrument was guitar.
After leaving Bill Monroe, he formed his own group, the Virginia Mountain Boys, including Del McCoury on banjo. In 1970, Cooke joined Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys when he was reoffered a bass playing job after running into Stanley at a Norton, VA flea market.
Cooke worked regularly as a member of Ralph Stanley’s band until 2009, when he stopped performing on the road due to health problems. In 2002, he shared a Grammy for his work on the Ralph Stanley’s Lost in the Lonesome Pines project. During his 38 year tenure with the Clinch Mountain Boys, he released one solo album, “Sittin’ On Top Of The World,” in 2007.
He served half a term as mayor of Norton, VA during 1963.
In 2003 he received the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Distinguished Achievement Award.
On December 1, 2009, Cooke collapsed at his home in Norton, Virginia, after suffering a massive heart attack, at the age of 72. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

About the author

I enjoy researching Bluegrass, Bluegrass Gospel, and Country birthdays, anniversaries and interesting trivia dates. I am a piano/organ performance major who has taught privately and served as church accompanist since 1968 in North Carolina and Central Kentucky. Although classically trained, I appreciate all genres of music. My mother, who was also a church musician and taught public school music grades K-12, knew that Bluegrass music was the purest American music. She always introduced her students to this fine genre and began my musical studies with her at age 2. Bach to Berachah Valley, Mozart to Jimmy Martin, Sibelius to Stanley Brothers, the list goes on, I hope you find some moments of enjoyment and learn a few interesting facts along the way.
I am thankful for the many resources we have at our fingertips including Google. FaceBook and BluegrassBios by Wayne Rice. It was he who inspired me to tackle the task of trying to pass on knowledge about Bluegrass music. Thanks Wayne~!
Lou Ellen Wilkie

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