Interview with Hubby Jenkins Formerly Of The Carolina Chocolate Drops: “The Narrative Of Our Country.”

Celebrated multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins, formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops will bring his mix of country blues, ragtime, and traditional jazz to the Fort Hunter Barn in Harrisburg on Sunday, November 17th. The evening begins at 7:30 pm.  The concert is sponsored by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society.  More information can be found on the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website. formation can be found on the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website. Tickets are $20 General Admission, $18 for SFMS Members, and $10 for students (ages 3-22).  Tickets will be available at the door or online.

Earlier this week, Hubby chatted with SFMS staff writer Peter Winter via email about his roots as a street musician, the relevance of old-time music today, and the African American origins of American roots music.

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Growing up in Brooklyn what was your gateway into traditional old-time American music?

I grew up playing saxophone, switching to cello and bass in high school before finally finding the guitar. I got into blues music first from listening to Hendrix and Dylan, which led to Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, etc. The first blues song I heard that really blew me away was “Devil Got My Woman,” by Skip James. It was the most powerful music I heard or felt coming from just one person with a guitar. I also had a group of close friends who were getting into prewar American music and we got our inspiration from the musicians of the New York folk scene. We spent a lot of time in the west village like they did; busking in Washington Sq. Park and hanging around MacDougal Street.


What were the lessons you learned as a musician from starting out busking?

I guess I learned a lot about performing. Shyness and quietness are not effective tools when busking. I used to have terrible stage fright and I had to get over it quick if I wanted to make any money. I also looked at busking as kind of getting paid to practice so I think my early chops came from playing the 10 songs I knew over and over again.

Why is this music still relevant today?

This music is still relevant today because within it is the narrative of our country. So many overlooked stories fill these songs. Now a days there is a conflict over what the  character of our country is and use to be, but it’s all there in old time music. That being said, it’s also just real good music for any mood and occasion.

If you were going to play someone one blues song to introduce them to the genre, what would it be?

It’s hard to pick just one, but I think I would have to choose Skip James “Devil Got My Woman” or “Hard Time Killing Floor.” His haunting style of singing and minor tempered playing are so beautiful. The first time I heard him, it stopped me in my tracks.

Do you feel like the African American roots of so much of what is considered traditional American music is being recognized more today?

Absolutely. When I first joined Carolina Chocolate Drops almost 10 years ago, it seemed that most people didn’t know the African and Black roots of the banjo, but nowadays that seems like more of a common fact. I also think that a lot of people just don’t think about it. I mean to say that they do not wonder where the music they enjoy comes from and not in a malicious way. I order a burger I don’t know where it was raised, what it ate, etc. I do see younger black artist finding that they do have a place and a history in old time music whether it be blues, fiddle banjo, hot jazz, folk,  and that is a very important recognition.

What do you want your audience to take walk away with from a Hubby Jenkins show?

I want my audience to walk away having learned at least one thing, that spurs them to learn more and to listen to old time music with a different filter. They should also walk away thinking, “That guy sure knows how to play!”

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Peter Winter lives in Harrisburg where he writes, teaches music, plays in the Celtic group Seasons, DJs, runs half of the record label His & Hers Records and serves on the board of the SFMS. He is on instagram

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Leigh
    Nov 17, 2019 @ 22:50:32

    he’s a great guy and wonderful musician!

    Reply

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