Jenkins, DeWitt

October 27, 1908–April 30, 1990

Jenkins’s work as a bluegrass banjo pioneer became better known after Mike Seeger placed four of his numbers on the Folkways album American Banjo Scruggs Style.

Musician. Born on October 27, 1908, in Harris, North Carolina, DeWitt “Snuffy” Jenkins is known for his long musical partnership with Homer “Pappy” Sherrill and for being a major influence on such better-known banjo players as Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, and Ralph Stanley. Jenkins learned his three-finger technique from local banjo stylists Rex Brooks and Smith Hammett and adopted that style about 1927 when he and his brother Verl began to enter fiddle contests. About 1934 they added two guitar pickers and became the Jenkins String Band on radio station WBT in Charlotte.

In 1937 Jenkins joined J. E. Mainer’s Mountaineers at WSPA Spartanburg and that April moved to WIS Columbia. Jenkins recorded with Mainer on Bluebird and was heard prominently on their rendition of “Kiss Me Cindy.” After Mainer left the group, announcer Byron Parker took over and they became the WIS Hillbillies on radio and Byron Parker’s Mountaineers on record. Homer Sherrill took over the fiddle chores in October 1939. Jenkins and Sherrill would continue to perform as a team until Jenkins’s death. In 1946 they had a session with DeLuxe in addition to the sixteen sides they cut for Bluebird in 1940. After Parker died in 1948, the group took the name Hired Hands. When WIS-TV went on the air, they added television to their list of achievements while also playing personal appearances throughout the Carolinas and parts of Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia. Jenkins became almost as well known for his comedy routines–with washboard and baggy-pants gags– as for his banjo work.

Jenkins’s work as a bluegrass banjo pioneer became better known after Mike Seeger placed four of his numbers on the Folkways album American Banjo Scruggs Style. In 1962 the Hired Hands recorded an album for Folk-Lyric and two more for Rounder in the 1970s. The growing popularity of bluegrass festivals allowed them to display their skills to a wider audience outside of the Carolinas. Declining health took its toll on the aging picker and he played banjo on only two cuts on the final Hired Hands album for Old Homestead in 1989. Jenkins died from colon cancer on April 30, 1990.

Ahrens, Pat J. A History of the Musical Careers of DeWitt “Snuffy” Jenkins, Banjoist, and Homer “Pappy” Sherrill, Fiddler. Columbia, S.C., 1970.

“DeWitt ‘Snuffy’ Jenkins.” Bluegrass Unlimited 24 (June 1990): 5.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Jenkins, DeWitt
  • Coverage October 27, 1908–April 30, 1990
  • Author
  • Keywords Musician, Jenkins String Band, J. E. Mainer’s Mountaineers, WIS Hillbillies, Hired Hands,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 18, 2021
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update October 18, 2016
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