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Q&A: Meet the artist - Benny Jenkins


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Members of the Benny Jenkins bloodline, from left, Don Jenkins, Benny Jenkins and Todd Gallagher. Not pictured is guitarist Dylan Jenkins. They will be performing at Mallow Run Winery on Saturday. The band blends traditional Chicago blues and rockabilly music into a unique sound. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Members of the Benny Jenkins bloodline, from left, Don Jenkins, Benny Jenkins and Todd Gallagher. Not pictured is guitarist Dylan Jenkins. They will be performing at Mallow Run Winery on Saturday. The band blends traditional Chicago blues and rockabilly music into a unique sound. SUBMITTED PHOTO


For musician Benny Jenkins, the blues are in his blood.

Growing up on the southside of Chicago, he was exposed to performers such as Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Paul Butterfield and Sonny Boy Williamson as a child.

Something about that raw, rough sound stuck with him.

“The blues kind of came back around to me. I’ve played in a lot of different types of bands, but the blues really stuck in my head,” he said.

Jenkins has carried on the Chicago blues tradition ever since, playing in numerous bands all across the Midwest. Joining with his brother, Don Jenkins, his son, Dylan Jenkins, and long-time collaborator Todd Gallagher, they’ve put their own spin on old-time blues and rockabilly music.

The fusion of the two has produced a unique blend that appeals to long-time fans of the genres, as well as attracting new audiences.

The Benny Jenkins bloodline will perform from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Mallow Run Winery in Bargersville.

In addition to playing with Don Jenkins, he’s also formed bands with another brother, Alex Jenkins. It was Alex Jenkins who first exposed him to the blues music.

Performing with family can be a difficult proposition, Benny Jenkins said.

“They might not want to hear you out, because you’re more family than a band,” he said. “We get it all worked out in the end.”

But at the same time, it’s rewarding to have his brothers, and now his son, by his side on stage. They are partners in the band that he can count on to be reliable and not let him down, he said.

Throughout his career, Benny Jenkins has shared with such bands as the Reverend Horton Heat, Mojo Nixon, Chubby Checker and Cheap Trick.

While living in Nashville, he was nominated by the Music City Blues Society for harmonica player of the year.

With a new album, “Can’t Take the Blues,” released in June, Benny Jenkins is hoping to spread his love for the blues and rockabilly music to a whole new audience, Benny Jenkins said.

Saturday’s concert is free and open to the public at Mallow Run, located at 6964 W. Whiteland Road, Bargersville.

Free wine tasting for those 21 and older will be available inside the winery, and organizers have planned a fish fry where customers can purchase food.

How did you get into this mix of blues and rockabilly?

It’s been in my blood for a while. I have a big family, a couple brothers who have always been into the blues and blues rock. I started out playing with them years ago. Then the rockabilly, I’ve always been into that too. I’ve been in straight-up rockabilly bands, and I love the culture around that. This genre just meshed. It formed this sound when we went to the studio. It just came out this way.

How do you fuse those two genres into something that’s your own?

It came together by accident. Because we use fatter sounding guitars that the blues guys and rockabilly guys use, and a stand-up base, the instrumentation leads to both.

When we went into the studio, it was off-the-cuff. We hardly had any time at all to go over it. It wasn’t exactly hardcore blues or rockabilly. It was “blues-billy.”

As you’ve been touring and playing, is there a big audience for this type of music?

There’s a bunch of bands that have started playing this type of music, some really popular ones like Duke Robillard and the Cash Box Kings, we’re fitting in well with. We’re hoping to jump in there and ride that wave too.

What’s it like being in a band with your brother and your son, and performing with family in general?

We’ve all played together in different situations, and it’s fun. But it’s tough sometimes.

There has to be someone steering the ship; you can’t have too many chiefs.

But we get along well. When we decided to push me out front as the lead singer, that made it easier.

You have to try to separate between your personal issues and the band’s issues, and not take it too personally if someone has feedback on something.

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