Jesse James Cuno

 

Jesse was born in St. Louis, Missouri and raised in southern Illinois. He started playing guitar at the age of 11 years old. He learned on an electric guitar with no amplifier! Jesse shared his guitar with his brother Fred. They were taught their first chords by their father Charles, and continued to learn songs from listening to the radio and playing by ear! Jesse states that his earliest influences were Chet Atkins, Carl Perkins and Scotty Moore, who was Elvis Presley's guitar player. He began playing guitar professionally at age 15 and remembers getting paid $7.50 a night on his first gigs. He was so shy, that he stood with his back to the audience. Jesse played locally at fairs and other events until age 17.

It was at this time that he had the opportunity to work with Jimmy Dupree from Alabama. They did a Grande Ole Opry show in Flora, Illinois with Lonzo and Oscar, Kitty Wells and Johnny and Jack. He met Judy Lynn at this time and later joined her showband. They toured with Opry stars throughout Iowa, Kansas, and Arizona. Her show was well received in the Nevada circuit. Jesse was featured playing lead guitar instrumentals such as: "Apache", "Wheels", "Calcutta", and "The Bells of St. Mary's". He also excelled in back-up vocals. They toured all of the US except Hawaii. In 1964, they went to Sweden for an extensive tour. He was with her show for 7 years.

 


Judy Lynn, Jesse James Cuno.
 
L-R: Dave Rogers, Judy Lynn, Jesse James Cuno.

 


In 1967, Jesse moved to Texas near the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. After a short time, he was rated one of the best lead guitar players in the region. It was at this time that Jesse crossed paths with Mike Chapel. Mike was the drummer for the Don and Donna Chapel Show, and also Donna's brother. He heard Jesse play the guitar and told his dad, Don Chapel, that he should hire him. This was when Jesse and Donna first met. Jesse joined their show and played lead and steel guitar for them.

 


L-R: Don Chapel, Donna Chapel, Mike Chapel, Ron Hogan, Jesse Cuno, Fred Cuno.

L-R: Bobby Penn, Ron Hogan, Jesse Cuno, Mike Chapel.

 

It was at this time that Jesse and Donna fell in love. It was not to last, as Donna left the road and settled in Iowa. Jesse remained with Don Chapel for another year and then he also settled in the midwest. He played with the Mike Chapel Show for 2 years also. During these years Jesse and Donna would occasionally see each other and always knew they still had strong feelings for each other. Donna wrote a song on her new CD called "My Love Is With You" especially for Jesse over 22 years ago. Their dream of being together was not realized until 1999. They were married August 14 in Nashville with close friends and family present. Jesse is now with the Donna Chapel show and is a featured singer, lead guitar and steel guitar player. He will be featured on an album in the near future highlighting his musical talents. Donna is proud to share the stage with her husband and best friend and both are happy to be performing together the country music they love best!

 

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