Stories, photos, video, articles, and accounts of The Legend, Alaska's Hobo Jim. By fans, for fans.
Page 377: "Hobo Night. It was Hobo night at the Yukon Bar in Seward. I had heard a couple college students who worked at Icicle Seafoods call it "the church of Hobo" since he played every Sunday night. The Yukon is about three blocks from Resurrection Bay. Hobo Jim, Alaska's rebel folk singer, has made his living for a couple of decades playing the saloons, festivals, and fairs in every fishing village, town, and city in Alaska. He came to Alaska as a hitchhiker, looking like Che Guevara. In the 70s his shoulder length hair and full beard were as black as a Greek fisherman's. His last name is Varsos; his father is of Greek descent, his mother Scottish. His beard may be mostly gray, but he can still outperform just about everyone, playing before five thousand or seventy-five. He is such a gifted entertainer that listening to his CDs isn't enough. He enchants people; the audience has more fun than they can remember, even when he's yodeling. I've seen him sing and play guitar for three hours straight, threatening to take a break but never doing it. Before the night's over, he'll probably be singing from on top of a table.
Some people followed Hobo around in Alaska the way people Outside follow the Grateful Dead. Wherever he was playing, Homer, Soldotna, Palmer, Seward, or some biker bar near Girdwood, they showed up. Some people have been going to his shows since they were 18-year-old cannery workers just planning to summer in Alaska. Now they're in their late 30s, they never went back to wherever they came from, and they've been fans of Hobo's all this time."
"In the early 1990s, Jim faced the challenge of playing a marathon show without repeating himself. A challenge that he gladly accepted. The historical performance occurred at the Moosehead saloon in Palmer, Alaska. He played for 18 consecutive hours, quitting only when his fingers finally “wore out,” leaving much more in the catalog of songs he retained in his head. He also jokingly added that he had to use the “boy’s room.” He once explained that he could accomplish such a feat by alphabetically picking a topic (animals, mining, trains, fishing, etc.) and playing every song he knew in that subject. As confirmed by an independent record keeper, he played over 450 songs that day, never repeating a single one.".
- Terry Dee, Wasilla, Alaska
We lived on the Kenai from 2002-2015, and had seen Hobo perform a handfull of times in and around AK and in various other capacities and locations (BJ’s, Alaska state fair, and hanging out together in ANC terminal…). One summer, maybe 2010 or 2011(?), my sister’s family from FL visited us, having flown into Anchorage and renting an RV that summer for a week in July. One random day that week, we decided to visit Seward (Sea Life Center, Seavey’s, Exit Glacier…). Enroute, from Kenai to Seward while driving I popped in Hobo’s Woodsmoke CD. We were discussing AK, and stopped at the Tern Lake pullout to stretch our legs, take a break, get some pictures, etc. Lo and behold, much to our surprise, Hobo Jim had also stopped there exactly at the same time, and was wearing his trademark straw hat… Like it was fate!!! We all briefly introduced/chatted about 10 minutes and then went our separate ways. No big deal for me but my sister and her family were thoroughly impressed and blown away by our ‘brush with destiny’, lol. Such a great person, accomplished songwriter, performer, and all-around great guy, Alaskas Balladeer!!
- Ted Johnson
"In summer, Jim played every Sunday at the Yukon Bar in Seward. One night he climbed on top of a tall table, playing and singing. To catch his balance he grabbed the cord of a ceiling light. Down it came and crashed on the floor. As sparks flew Jim kept saying “ouch, ouch, ouch”. It burnt his shirt but he kept playing nonetheless with that crazy laughter. Omg it was hilarious!"
- Cindy Ranta
"Once upon a time there was a man called Hobo Jim. He wasn't really a hobo; he was musician and a poet, a husband and a friend. After high school he hitchhiked across the country and back before eventually landing in Alaska. There he fell in love. Over the years, Hobo Jim traveled the world, saw many places and made many friends, but his heart and his home were always in Alaska.
I never met Hobo Jim. I heard stories and listened to a few of his songs and honestly, at first, I wasn't a fan. I'm not really into banjo. But then I heard Songbird and damn, it's good! And then I realized there's a lot more to Hobo Jim than banjo. The dude could really sing, and write, and think.
My job is to build this Hobo Jim website and after connecting with his music, I felt inspired. The result is a site that, hopefully, will be a tribute to his music and his legacy.
Hobo Jim was a storyteller, and since most people just skim website headlines, I thought it'd be appropriate to make his homepage headlines into a little story. It reads:
The Legend of Hobo Jim
Join us for some fun
Listen free right here
The Legend lives among his friends
And what he left behind
Remember him and when you do
The Legend never dies
Each headline is designed to fit the website, contribute to the overall story, and inspire the reader to take action. I hope it inspires you.
- Boone Caughey, Perham, MN
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