ABOUT THE BAND
After a musical career spanning over 60 years, Bill Jenkins,
a member of the Virginia Music Hall of Fame is still going
strong. His old Martin D45 guitar is in a case next to
Ralph Stanley's banjo. Other distinguished members of
the Hall of Fame include: Wayne Newton, Roy Clark, Kate Smith,
Ella Fitzgerald, Patsy Cline, the Statler Brothers, Pearl
Bailey, the Carter Family, and a few others. In
recognition of his induction into the Hall of Fame
and for his long time commitment to preserving this
historic music, the Governor of Virginia issued an official
Proclamation and the House of Delegates and the Senate
passed a Joint Resolution in his honor.
On March 28, 2014 Bill performed for a second time at the National
Press Club. In 1964, three young teenager, Bill Jenkins and the
two Cottingham brothers, Robert and Russell, were given a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play there. During the weekends,
the young men were playing "Hootenannies" in the D.C. area when
their talent was noticed by the Washington correspondent for
the Richmond Times Dispatch. He was greatly impressed by
their musical ability and that they were playing "traditional"
mountain music at such an early age. He arranged for the
three young men to put on a one-hour evening show. Half a
century later, Bill Jenkins and the Virginia Mountain Boys, and
Robert Cottingham, were invited to perform a special 50th
Anniversary Show. It was a historic event in that only one other
person in the long history of the Club had ever had a 50th Show,
his name was Jack Benny.
As a youngster, Bill appeared on the Dominion Barn Dance in
Richmond. Later he performed with the Virginia Gentlemen
and with Red Allen and the Kentuckians. Bill has performed on
the White House lawn and was featured on a nationally
syndicated Smithsonian Institute program promoting
traditional music. Jenkins founded The Virginia Mountain Boys
in 1971 and they have been performing together ever since.
Jenkins was born and raised in the Tidewater area of Virginia into a
family with a long musical history. Bill has three cousins
who were musicians and a great uncle who was a noted
old-time auto harpist. Bill's earliest musical influence
was with the extended family singing at his aunt's home.
As he later recalled, "We were very poor and did not
have a car, or a phone, or money for entertainment. Many
nights we would just sit around and sing a lot of old songs that
had been handed down through the years. Many of these songs
such as 'In the Pines', 'Little Bessie','Wayfaring Stranger', 'Man
of Constant Sorrow' and others I use in my shows today."
He also noted that he was strongly influenced by the old time
blues singers and the black workers he labored alongside on the
family farm. "While working they would sing the old slave
songs and hymns. Some of the songs like 'Climbing Jacob's
Ladder','Old Daniel Prayed', 'Sister Mary', and others,I also use
in today's shows. That 'lonesome' sound has always been a large
part of my musical influence."
Jenkins has collected countless numbers of these old songs
over his 60+ years. His band can sing over 500 songs from
memory. With such an extensive repertoire, every show can
be different depending on the location,audience, occasion,
and Jenkins' "frame of mind". As one of the best cross picking
guitarist in the country, Bill is backed up by Ken Worrell, singer
and guitarist; Joe Gilley on the bass. The world class five string
banjo player,Clyde Bailey, contributes 'breakdowns" and sings
Jenkins and the Virginia Mountain Boys bring to life this
authentic music of the Southern Appalachians. This old
time music is a reflection of the lives of the early immigrants
and their descendants who eked out a meager living in the
hills and hollows of these majestic mountains. Entertainment
options were few and thus self made music became the norm.
This mountain music, heavily influenced by Scots-Irish
and African rhythms, later gave birth to early Bluegrass and
to many early country songs which are also included
in the shows. The group performs universally loved, but
seldom heard music that brings forth a gamut of
emotions. Each song is performed as originally written or
as handed down through the ages. Thus, these ballads
are undiluted and raw like the emotions they bring forth.
The sound of the group differs from most contemporary
Bluegrass bands in that it has an older, starker, and rawer
sound. Jenkins and Worrell use their voices as instruments
as much as their guitars. The ability to swap back and forth
from lead to harmony several times during the same song
is part of their genius, which has been honed in over 45 years
of practice and performance. Moreover, a short history
lesson and an explanation about each song is an important
part of each show.
Audience reactions during their shows are almost always
the same regardless of the venue. Following two hours
of hand clapping, toe tapping, singing along,and wiping
away tears, the audience always gives a standing ovation and
is rewarded with an encore, sometimes two. Afterwards, Bill
and the band "hang around", shake hands, sign autographs,
and accept the well deserved kudos for a truly special event.
The rapport is genuine both ways and they have developed
a large group of loyal followers, including some who travel
great distances to hear them play.
As one longtime fan recently commented....
"Their performance is not just another show.
It is an experience that I would never miss".
The Virginia Mountain Boys is a registered name
solely owned by Bill Jenkins since 1971