Jenks Carman played guitar in the old Hawaiian style, that is just a regular flat top type Martin in the laying down position, and was both adept at playing breaks, solos and backing up his singing. What makes his guitar style so unusual was that the staccato type style he played was popular in the teens up into the mid 20`s. It was the style of the “real” Hawaiians that migrated here from about the turn of the century till the mid 20`s.
His vocal stylings were something to behold too. He sang in a high, nasal toned voice. His singing matched his guitar stylings, staccato. He was part Cherokee Indian and could speak the Cherokee language.
He was known as the “Dixie Cowboy” and was a native of Hardinsburg, Kentucky. He showed his musical talents at a very early age while in school and at church and became quite a bit of an expert at ‘strumming the old family guitar’. His very first professional musical engagement was with the Continental Lyceum Chautauqua Bureau of Louisville, KY as the leader of the International Glee Club Quartette. He stayed with them for a couple of years before doing a vaudeville tour with the likes of the Loew’s Time, Bently Theatrical Agency Time of St. Louis, MO. and other circuits.
Jenks did his vaudeville act as a single for several years, while later teaming with his sister when they billed themselves as the “Royal Castillians”. When his sister got married, the act broke up. And Jenks went back to doing the vaudeville tours by himself. Then he began to do radio work on stations such as KMOX out of St. Louis, WHAS out of Louisville. Later, he was signed to record with the Four Star Records, Inc. label.
On Four Star, some of his more notable recordings were:
End of the World
I Don’t Know Why But I Do
Wreck of the Old 97
New Waikiki Beach
What was the key to his success? He was a showman. And he had a unique style of playing the steel guitar that “…placed him in a class by himself.” Jenks learned his steel guitar from Frank Plada, one of the first of the Hawaiian musicians that came to this country. The showman he is, he learned the traditional Hawaiian stylings, but let his showmanship creativity turn it into something unique that entertained the audiences everywhere he went.
Those talents led to a later recording contract with Capitol Records where it saw him record such tunes as:
End of the World
Don’t Feel Sorry For Me
Poor Lonesome Fellow
My Loney Heart and I
I Could Love You, Darlin’
Dixie Cannon Ball
The Caisons Go Rolling Along
Locust Hill Rag
Jenks in the mid-1950s was performing on the west coast show “Town Hall Party”, that was one of the top TV shows out of Compton, California on KTTV.