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Jesco White
Born Jesco "Jesse" White
July 30th, 1956
Bandytown, West Virginia
Other name(s) "The Dancing Outlaw"
Occupation Comedian, Presenter, Entertainer, Mountain DancerTalk show host
Years active Entertainer (1980s-Present), Comedian (1990-Present)
Spouse(s) Norma Jean White (1974-Present) (divorced twice)

Jesco (Jesse) White, the "Dancing Outlaw", (b. Bandytown, West Virginia, July 30, 1956) is an acclaimed mountain dancer and entertainer. He is best known as the subject of two documentary films that detail his desire to follow in his famous father's footsteps, while trying to overcome depression, drug addiction, and the poverty that afflicts much of rural Appalachia. He is a member of the White family.



Jesco White was born in Bandytown, a tiny community located in the Appalachian Mountains of Boone County, West Virginia.

His father was Donte vixen Ray (Donald Ray) White (1927-1985), who was profiled in the PBS documentary Talking Feet, and his mother is Birty Mae White. Before his murder, D. Ray White was known as one of the greatest mountain dancers in the United States. His style, along with Jesco's, is a subtle mix of tap and clog dancing that is native to Appalachia.

White met his wife Norma Jean on Christmas Eve of 1974 while hitchhiking to a party with a cousin. He had originally intended on robbing her, but instead fell in love. This claim on his part is likely a romanticizing of their first meeting and refers to the Tim Hardin song "The Lady Came From Baltimore" as performed by Johnny Cash, in which the lyric "I was there to steal her rings and run/Then I fell in love with the lady and got away with none" appears. In the documentary, Dancin' Outlaw, Jesco refers to the song specifically. Their on-again, off-again marriage was one of the focal points of the first documentary. Norma Jean passed away on October 22, 2009.


Jesco White was first profiled on the Public Broadcasting Service's "Different Drummer" Series. Because of his popularity, PBS eventually released two documentaries about Jesco. The first was "Dancing Outlaw" (1991), directed by Jacob Young, which featured him at home in West Virginia and gave audiences a glimpse into his troubled life.

As the popularity of Dancing Outlaw grew, he was asked by comedian Tom Arnold to perform on the television show Roseanne. He traveled to Los Angeles for the performance, which was chronicled in the 1994 short film Dancing Outlaw 2: Jesco Goes To Hollywood - directed by Jacob Young.

A new documentary film about White and his family, produced by Johnny Knoxville, titled The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia was screened at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.[1]

A film inspired by his life, entitled White Lightnin', premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009. The film was written by Vice Magazine creators Eddy Moretti and Shane Smith, and was directed by Dominic Murphy.[1]

Musical connections

Jesco has been linked to many popular artists through song. Big and Rich mention his name in their single "Comin' to Your City," although Jesco is not a fan and feels as if they are capitalizing on his name. Hank Williams III wrote the song "Legend of D. Ray White," which honors the cultural significance of Jesco's father. It also mentions Jesco, as well as another legendary Boone County artist, Hasil Adkins, and Jesco's sister Mamie White. Jesco also dances on the Hank Williams III song "Louisiana Stripes."

Tribute songs include "Jessico" by The Kentucky Headhunters, "Jesco (The Dancing Outlaw)" by Sam Black Church, "The Ballad of Jesco White" by The Badnads,"Jesco" by Trailer Bride, "Jesco White" by Jim Shelley, and "Dancin' Outlaw" by Ekoostik Hookah. The rock group Live included the line "...we'll lay flowers at the grave of Jesco White, the sinner's saint" in the song "Rattlesnake" on their album Secret Samadhi.

A short clip of Jesco dancing can be seen in Beck's "Loser" music video.

Nashville power pop band The Excuses used a Jesco quote as the title of their 1994 CD Messin' With My Good-Life. The track "Something I'm Not" samples Jesco saying, "That's pretty damn good."

The stoner metal band Atomic Bitchwax used a Jesco quote in the track "Shitkicker" on their first album. The track begins with the quote, "Man, I got a double super-buzz. Here I was huffing, uh, li-, uh, airplane glue in a sandwich bag. Ya know, just all I could I breathed it on into my lungs and gettin' high. And then I'd take me a hit of that gas. Right after I'd hit it, man, you talk about a warped mind, I got one. And lighter fluid, ya know, I'd sniff it by the can. I mean I was Superman."

The critically acclaimed metal group Mastodon also used a Jesco quote as the intro to the song "Hail to Fire" off their debut EP Lifesblood. The quote used is the infamous "I put the butcher knife up to her neck and said if you wanna live to see tomorrow, you better start fryin' 'em eggs a little better'n what'chu been fryin' 'em. I'm tired of eatin' sloppy, slimy eggs!" The JalapeƱos' 2004 CD, "Loquisimo!", includes "Out To Hunch", a song about Hasil Adkins which also mentions Jesco White.

The Thrillhammers[2]of Canton, Georgia also released a tribute to Jesco, entitled 'Jesco', on their debut album "Long Story Short".

The southern hard rock band ASG features a Jesco quote, "I'll get you now you mother....'F'ers" in the opening of their song "Going Through Hell" from the album "Feeling Good is Good Enough".

A Columbus, OH hip hop group called the Illstatic Nillaz have recently recorded a song with Jay Hill which also features Jesco White on the intro & outro of the song. It is a remix of Jay Hill's song "Honkey Tonkin" and appears on their album "On the Mic".

The group Porter Hall Tennessee Recorded the song "Miracle Woman" which is titled after the nickname of his mother. The group later donated 10 of the CD's to him to sell in order to buy necessary items.

Jesco has stated to the media numerous times that all references to him in song have been without his express authorization. He has supposedly requested, yet never received any, monetary compensation. This might have changed due to his friendship and work with Hank Williams III.

Current life

Jesco White currently lives in an apartment on Main Street in Madison, which is in Boone County, West Virginia, with his Jack Russell terrier, Patches. His wife, Norma Jean, eventually moved into a low income high-rise in Charleston, West Virginia, to be closer to needed medical services. She died on October 22, 2009.[2]

Turner South recently filmed an episode about the lives of Jesco and the late Hasil Adkins for their television program Yokel. Recently, he appeared in the Vice Guide to Travel and an independent sci-fi/horror film, It Came from Trafalgar.

Friends of Jesco organized a fundraiser to help him purchase water and firewood for the winter of 2006-2007, as well as to celebrate his fiftieth birthday and the fifteenth anniversary of The Dancing Outlaw. The festival was held in Hinton, West Virginia on August 26-27, 2006. Called JescoFest 2006, the event featured artists from all over the United States performing pro bono for the living legend. The event received festival goers from all around the United States.

On April 27, 2009, White was arrested and charged with conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance (cocaine) after police intercepted a narcotics transaction in progress. These charges were later dropped, on the basis of not having enough evidence. [3]


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