Jim Smoak purchased his first banjo from Sears Roebuck at age 12 after winning a 4-H club prize in South Carolina. As soon as he graduated from high school, Jim hit the road with his banjo with the goal of ending up on the Grand Ole Opry. “Bill Monroe hired me in 1952 and that’s when I began playing on the Grand Ole Opry. I was with the folk group The Cumberlands in the 1960’s with several guest spots on the Grand Ole Opry.” He traveled through the eastern and southwestern United States in the 1950s and ’60s with Bill Monroe, Little Jimmy Dickens, Hylo
Brown, and The Cumberlands and played at the first Newport Folk Festival in 1959 with Earl Scruggs. He stopped touring in the 1970s when he met his wife and they moved to her hometown of Pekin, where Jim now teaches students of all ages. He has twice served as a master artist in Traditional Arts Indiana’s Apprenticeship Program and is a featured artists in TAI’s Elder Music Series.