I always enjoy writing about musicians who were still active in their later years. Although making good music is a lot tougher than anything I do (like maintaining the GMC) I have to applaud anyone who keeps doing what they enjoy for as long as they can. Which brings us to Snuffy Jenkins, a legendary banjoist who inspired guys like Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, and many others. Although he died more than a decade ago, he continued performing well into his eighties.
DeWitt ‘Snuffy’ Jenkins was a North Carolina native who grew up in a big, musical family — he was the youngest of ten children and they all joined in. His first instrument was actually the fiddle, but he played it by picking it like a mandolin because he was too small to play it the right way. He eventually moved on to guitar and banjo, where his picking really paid off.
As an adult, Jenkins began showing up professionally in the late 1920s, and was by then an early proponent of the three-finger style of banjo play. Over the next decade he built his fame throughout the area before eventually moving to South Carolina to take advantage of an offer to appear regularly on radio. The group he joined became known as the Hired Hands, and included fiddler Homer ‘Pappy’ Sherrill, who would become his friend and musical partner for decades to come.
As the years passed, Jenkins became a popular and respected part of the country music world, at one point mentoring a young Earl Scruggs and inspiring countless others. When he died in 1990 he left behind a lot of friends and fans.
Below you can sample one of his best songs from two different eras – as it was originally performed, and in a video made shortly before he passed on.