Macon music legend Johnny Jenkins gets star on Douglass Theatre’s Walk of Fame

Telegraph correspondentJune 21, 2013 

Johnny Jenkins is being honored at the Douglass Theatre on Friday.

RON KEITH — CAPRICORN

Johnny Jenkins is not a household name.

But the guitarist and Macon native is credited with influencing the style of Jimi Hendrix and other well-known musicians. Friday night, the Douglass Theatre will honor Jenkins with the installation of an etched portrait of him on its Walk of Fame.

The panel for Jenkins, who died in 2006, will join those of Little Richard, Otis Redding, Hamp Swain and James Brown outside the Douglass. The unveiling will take place at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a concert.

“Johnny Jenkins was in the group the Pinetoppers and he actually helped launch the career of Otis Redding,” said Gina Ward, director of the Douglass. “He saw Otis playing at the Douglass one night and he asked if he could play with him.”

Redding later drove the Pinetoppers to a recording session at Stax, she said.

“The Pinetoppers were there for the audition ... they had some recording time left and Otis was able to use that extra time,” Ward said.

“That allowed Otis to record the single that kind of put him out there,” she said of “These Arms of Mine.”

Jenkins grew up in east Macon and made his first guitar at age 9 out of a cigar box and rubber bands, according to his obituary. He played left-handed and was known for his acrobatics with the guitar.

“Jimi Hendrix was in this area when they were young and Jimi Hendrix kind of copied the style of guitar playing that Johnny did,” Ward said.

Newton Collier, who played trumpet with the Pinetoppers, said Jenkins was the reason he became a professional musician.

“(Jenkins) was a pioneer,” Collier said in a news release. “All the things you saw Jimi Hendrix do, all the behind the back playing and trick moves with the guitar, were copied from Johnny.”

Jenkins was represented by Capricorn Records and mostly left the music scene when Capricorn went out of business, according to his obituary. He continued to play occasionally, including the first concert at the Douglass after its 1997 renovation.

Members of the Jenkins family will be on hand for the Walk of Fame ceremony.

“I think the majority of them are still in Macon,” Ward said. “(The concert) will be some people who had connections or played the style of music Johnny Jenkins played.”

The concert with include Paul Hornsby on keyboard, Robert Coleman on guitar, Collier on horn and Bo Ponder on vocals. Both Collier and Ponder played with Jenkins during his time with the Pinetoppers.

Ward said Alan Walden, who was involved with Capricorn Records and a lot of Macon’s famed musicians, recommended Jenkins for the Walk of Fame. Jenkins also was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2012.

“Most of our inductees into the Douglass are also inductees of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame,” Ward said. “We try to induct people who have some connection with the Douglass and made their mark on Macon also.”

The Douglass accepts nominations for the Walk of Fame from anyone, she said.

Tribute to Johnny Jenkins

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Douglass Theatre, 355 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Cost: Free

Information: 742-2000 or www.douglasstheatre.org

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