Another great musician added to walk of fame

June 28, 2013 

In the last Out & About column I wrote, I daydreamed about how cool it would be if the Macon expanded its Walk of Fame at the Douglass Theatre to cover all of downtown. This would help teach people about the great history of Macon while keeping them entertained as they walk around. One person who I mentioned needed a square on the walk of fame was Johnny Jenkins.

I was quickly contacted by the Douglass and told that they were planning to unveil a square dedicated to this groundbreaking soul musician. The ceremony was last weekend.

Jenkins is a huge figure in the world of music, but his legend remains in the shadows and largely untold. His band, the Pinetoppers, was where Otis Redding got his start. While Redding did sing with the Pinetoppers, he was mainly Jenkins’ personal driver because Jenkins didn’t have a driver’s license of his own. So he was really just along for the ride when Jenkins headed to Memphis, Tenn., for a recording session at Stax Records.

For Jenkins, the session turned out to be a bust. The band quit early with some more recording time left. Redding asked if he could use it to record “These Arms of Mine.” Jenkins played guitar. Steve Cropper, known for his guitar work on many of Stax’s big tunes, played piano that day.

The song was a hit and became Redding’s introduction to the world. Redding, as we know him, could not have happened without Jenkins.

Jenkins was also a big influence on another great guitar player. A very young Jimi Hendrix came to stay in Macon for a little while when he was first learning how to play guitar.

He began to hang around the Pinetoppers and learned his flamboyant guitar style from watching Jenkins play.

Jenkins released his first full length album in 1970. “Ton-Ton Macoute” featured guitar by Duane Allman and although it wasn’t a huge hit, it became a cherished record amongst collectors for his cover of Dr. John’s “Walk on Gilded Splinters.” The song, decades later, was sampled by Beck and Oasis.

These are just some of the biggest influences Jenkins had on the world of music. The list goes on far beyond these. I give my deepest thanks to the Douglass for recognizing such a great musician.

So, who should be the next addition to Macon’s Walk of Fame?

Contact Roger Riddle at roger.riddle@gmail.com.

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