Friday, February 19, 2010

Snuffy Jenkins and radio

Dewitt "Snuffy" Jenkins was born before radio back in 1908. As a musician he started on fiddle and gradually moved to banjo. His 3-finger picking type was a sort of proto-bluegrass. He didnt' appear on radio until he was 26.

He debuted at WBT-AM in Charlotte, NC on the Crazy Water Barn Dance program in 1934. The program was sponsored by The Crazy Water Crystal Company. The 15 minute program ran 5 days a week. Fischer Hendley of The Crazy water Crystal Company also sponsored them on WPTF-AM Raleigh. Crazy water Crystals were a snake oil medicine company. They sold a powder purported to be made from evaporated miracle spring water. In reality it was some kind of laxative. (Rounder records released an LP named for the program in 1976.)

Another band that played the program J.E. Mainer and the Crazy Mountaineers broke up over a dispute with the sponsor. Snuffy took up with a couple members of that band and crossed the street and played gigs at WSOC-AM in Charlotte. In 1936, their new group, J. E. Mainer's Mountaineers began performing at local radio station WSPA in Spartanburg, they dropped the Crazy from their name as they were no longer affiliated with Crazy Water Crystal or laxatives.

In 1937 they moved over to play on WIS-AM in Charlotte. At WIS announcer Bryon Parker sort fo took over the group and renamed them Byron Parker's Hillbillies. J.E. Mainer left the group shortly thereafter. Snuffy hammed it up and the band did minstrel shows, blackface routines and comedy skits. It was at WIS that Byron Parker nicknamed Dewitt Jenkins "Snuffy" because he often wiped his nose on his sleeve. But there was no animosity. When Bryon died in 1948 the band renamed itself for Byrons long-standing nickname. They became "the Hired Hands."

Snuffy retired in the 1960s after a short spin on WIS-TV with the Hired hands. they even did a few shows as late as 1983, one of which was on PBS. Snuffy died in 1990. His home town holds the Snuffy Jenkins Festival annually in Rutherford, NC.