Jim Mills, Former Banjo Player For Ricky Skaggs, Has Died At 57

Bluegrass Today

The bluegrass world is mourning the loss of one of its most beloved musicians, Jim Mills.

The news of Jim Mills’ death made its rounds on social media Sunday night and was met with shock and sadness. Mills, 57, reportedly passed away following a heart attack at his home on Friday, May 3.

Jim Mills, nicknamed Smilin’ Jim, was known as one of the best banjo players in the industry, as evidenced by his six Grammy Awards and six IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) Banjo Player of the Year trophies.

A North Carolina native, Mills was known for his three-finger banjo playing style made popular by Earl Scruggs. He was a member of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver for 5 years before joining Ricky Skagg’s Kentucky Thunder band where he stayed for 14 years.

Upon leaving Kentucky Thunder in 2010, Mills started Jim Mills Banjo Inc., a company specializing in buying, selling and trading rare pre-war banjos.

Jim Mills Remembered

Tributes poured in for Jim Mills as word of his death spread online. Former Kentucky Thunder band mates Cody Kilby and Andy Leftwich, as well as other bluegrass greats, paid tribute to Mills with touching social media posts.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful tributes came from John Bowman, a dear friend of Jim’s and his former Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver band mate. Bowman shared memories of their first meeting and subsequent friendship before writing about Mills’ faith.

“I can tell you one thing for sure. Jim’s dad, ‘Big Jim,’ was a strong influence in Jim’s life. He was Jim’s biggest fan. He always impressed on his son to follow God. And Jim did, he was a believer in Christ. Though we lost contact over the years, I have no doubt were Jim is. He’s not been ‘lost.’ He’s at home with His Saviour in perfect peace, forever,” Bowman wrote. “So long my friend, we will see each other again, soon.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with those who knew and loved Jim Mills. He will be sorely missed.