Phillip Jenkins grew up surrounded by music in his Rutherford County home. Playing banjo was part of the family tradition. His great-uncle Snuffy Jenkins influenced both Earl Scruggs and Don Reno in their development of what today is known as bluegrass banjo. Snuffy’s brother and Phillip’s uncle Hoke Jenkins helped a number of musicians get started, including Zeke and Wiley Morris. Phillip’s father Oren Jenkins played banjo with the well-known bluegrass brothers Jim and Jesse McReynolds. According to the family lore, Oren could play the banjo before he could tie his shoes.
Phillip himself was especially drawn to the guitar and, at one time, wanted to be a rock-and-roll guitarist. Born in 1965, he was interested in Kiss and other rock bands that were popular when he was a teenager. He also played a lot of country music and Southern rock. When he was nineteen, his father passed away and left Phillip his banjo. At that point, Phillip turned to his own family tradition and began studying the banjo more seriously. His father had shown him some rolls on the banjo, and he remembered his great-uncle Snuffy’s playing from visits he had made to their home.
For more than a decade, Phillip performed with a local bluegrass gospel group, the Far City Boys. Phillip played guitar with them, as well as washboard, the instrument Snuffy Jenkins played primarily in his later years. He also plays banjo in much the same style as his father and the other Jenkins banjo players. He has also been influenced by a Spindale banjo player named Thurmond Ramsey, and by recordings of Earl Scruggs, who lived a few miles away in Boiling Springs.
Phillip’s house now stands on the homeplace where Snuffy, Hoke, and Oren grew up. He works as an electronic technician, but he also stays very busy playing music. He has three children, and he hopes to pass along the family banjo tradition.
Phillip is available for performances, demonstrations, classes or workshops, and private lessons.