Words by Entertainment Reporter, Daily Press
                    on April 8th, 2015
             
 
 



Letter From the Governor of Virginia:
 
                          

Daily Press, August 2, 2014  Article covering Bill Jenkins induction into the 
Virginia Musical Museum Hall of Fame Room:

dailypress.com

A man and his music

Gloucester's Bill Jenkins is honored for a lifetime devoted to traditional tunes

By Mike Holtzclawmholtzclaw@dailypress.com



2:42 PM EDT, August 2, 2014


As Bill Jenkins sees it, music is so much more than melody, rhythm and lyrics. It's a part of our history,

he says. A part of who we are, both individually and collectively. Jenkins, the Gloucester County man who 

has been singing traditional songs for more than a half-century, will be playing The American Theatre in

Phoebus on Saturday with his band, The Virginia Mountain Boys. And the soft-spoken gentleman 

sounds almost defiant when he explains why he will open that show with "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia."

"A lot of people take offense to this song, and that grates on me," he says. "I'm proud of the state of 

Virginia and everything that's part of it, for better or worse. That song is such a part of our family

that when my mom died, we sang that song in church – I might add, with a large contingent of black 

people who were there holding hands and singing that song like there was no tomorrow. That song is such

a part of my heart." Jenkins acknowledges that he will change a few words from the original lyrics, but not 

the tone of a song that professes love for his home state. It's a fitting choice, as Friday's show will 

mark his induction into the Virginia Musical Museum in Williamsburg. 


He is 69 years old now, but still singing many of the same songs he learned growing up on the Middle

 Peninsula. Some of them are the mountain ballads his father sang. Others are spirituals and traditional 

tunes he picked up from African-American workers on his grandfather's farm – melodies they used to 

establish a cadence while working in the fields. Regardless of the roots of a particular song, Jenkins

said he cherishes the opportunity to pass it along to new generations. "This music is such a part of 

America," he said. "And it's right here. It's where we are. It's still living. It's not a forgotten thing .

"Bill Collier, who has been playingthe stand-up bass for the Virginia Mountain Boys since 1997, 

says he has never seen anyone who can match Jenkins' ability to craft a connection between the 

singer and the song. "It's something he grew up with, and it's embedded in his soul," Collier said. 

"This is the music that's supposed to come out of him – real old, old stuff. We sing it as it was written,

" Collier said. "That's how he learned it and how he taught it to us. We knew these songs before, but 

we learned so much more about them from being associated with Bill." When it's suggested that the 

songs seem to come from Jenkins' heart, Collier replies: "Even deeper than that."


Jenkins talks about this music with a reverential tone in his soft voice. These are songs that helped 

get him through difficult times – military service in Vietnam, the deaths of loved ones – and he 

considers himself blessed to be able to perform them. That's what he says this honor from 

the Virginia Musical Museum means to him: the chance to share this music with a new audience.

"If there's someone who wouldn't normally listen to this music," he said, "and that person hears it and says, 

'That's not bad, I think I'll listen to it again,' then you've done your job for all of your life. Just one person. 

The whole thing is to keep the music alive." When he first learned that the museum planned to honor him, 

Jenkins' first instinct was to stress that he shared the tribute with his entire band.He said he was almost

embarrassed to tell the other musicians of the honor because he feared that they would feel slighted. But 

the bond between these band members is as tight as the intricate harmonies they sing on stage."There 

is a camaraderie that you rarely find," Collier said. "It's something that's out of this world and not 

found in too many bands. We are really more like a family, and everything falls into place like a jigsaw 

puzzle." Buddy Parker, who operates the museum, said the Jenkins exhibit will feature his first acoustic 

guitar, as well as the original suits that Jenkins wore with his first band. Parker says that after the show 

at The American Theatre, people will be able to come to the museum in Williamsburg and "see what this 

man is all about." This honor is just another part of what has been a big year for Jenkins. In March, 

he and the group played at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., making the 50th anniversary of 

the show at that same venue that launched his career when he was still a teenager. Jenkins joined 

legendary comedian Jack Benny as the only performers to play shows at the National Press Club 50 

years apart.


Looking back over the road he's traveled to this point, Jenkins gets wistful as he talks about good times 

and lean times. About long rides between shows, with the mandolin player keeping everyone awake in the 

car while trying to work out a melody at 3 a.m. He talks about the graciousness shown to him by older 

stars such as the Stanley Brothers and the Carter Family, and about playing alongside legends such as

 Earl Scruggs and Joan Baez. "It's all like a faded dream," he said. "I look back on it now and I think, 

'Why didn't I take pictures of this and that?' The whole experience has been like a wonderful wheel 

that has just turned. So many wonderful experiences."It has made me a much better person, I think, 

than I would have been if it had not been a part of my life."


Holtzclaw can be reached by phone at 757-928-6479.



 
 
 Mike Holtzclaw's Blog on August 11, 2014 following the 
                    American Theatre Show and Induction:
                       
                          Click Here:  Mike Holtzclaw's Blog
 
 
 


"When do YOU want to play?"   First words in the initial phone conversation to 
                                                   our agent, Ray Merritt, by the Executive Director 
                                                     of the National Press Club              
 
 

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