Past the Press Release is an interview series featuring a new member of a professional Southern Gospel group. It’s a chance to look past the standard “excited to be here” press release comment and learn a little more about them. Meet new Kingsmen tenor Chris Jenkins!
Daniel: Have you grown up around Southern Gospel your whole life, or did you discover it more recently?
Chris: Since a very young age I have loved Southern Gospel music. My family introduced me to this great music by taking me to concerts with such groups as; Gold City, Heaven Bound, Hoppers, and of course, The Kingsmen. My grandfather sang in a regional quartet in North Carolina and I longed to be able to do the same. I knew from this moment, this was what I wanted to do when as I grew older. Most people follow sports and it’s statistics through the years. I was very different I ate, slept, and breathed Southern Gospel Music. I studied many groups, their styles, and their history.
Daniel: Which group(s) most influenced you to want to be a singer yourself?
Chris: The very first group I remember seeing live was Gold City. By this time, the line-up included Free, Parker, Lefevre, Jones, and Riley. They always seemed to have a very structured sound and presentation. This was very different from that of the Kingsmen line-up I remember, which consisted of Garry Sheppard, Ray Dean Reese, Arthur Rice, and Ed Crawford, who seemed to always call their songs “off the cuff” with the guidance of Jim Hamill from the stage.
Daniel: I understand you trained under one of Southern Gospel’s most beloved tenors. Could you tell us about that, and any other musical training you’ve had?
Chris: I have always loved the tenor part, mainly because I could sing in that range as a young boy as the other parts were too low for me at that time. As I grew older I prayed for the Lord to allow me to maintain my tenor range. I feel blessed that the LORD gave me the desires of my heart. As a teenager, I had the great privilege of sitting in with Brian Free for a short time during his solo years in which I received feedback, guidance, and tips in the technique of my singing. I have to say that it was not an immediate understanding and gratification in my singing. At one point, I seemed to have had an epiphany in my singing. Everything just seemed to “click” in my head regarding my singing voice and technique. I practiced daily to get it right and after the years that have passed, I still revert back to a lot of these techniques. After high school I went on to study music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the Stamps-Baxter School of Music in Nashville, TN.
Daniel: You sang with several groups before joining the Kingsmen, most recently the Vintage Quartet. What other groups did you sing with? What are some highlights from your years on the road prior to this point?
Chris: From about the age of 18, I traveled with a group from my home church called, Redeemed Voices. In the summer of 2010, we were booked at an event with Karen Peck and New River with one other regional group. From that concert, a couple of members from the other regional group and I formed the Vintage Quartet. While traveling with the Vintage Quartet, we were awarded Grand Champion Group of the North Carolina Singing Convention in 2011 and signed a recording agreement with SkyLand Records, a division of Crossroads Entertainment, the same parent company that the Kingsmen recorded with. I am glad to still be a part of the Crossroads Family and the great people there.
Daniel: When was your first exposure to the Kingsmen? When did you first see them live?
Chris: The first Kingsmen song I remember hearing was “Called Out” which was released in the mid-eighties. I fell in love with them and remember people saying, “just listen to that “squeeky” tenor singer”. I had a special appreciation for Garry Sheppard’s voice, though different than the tenor vocalists of his time and since. My first live Kingsmen experience wasn’t until the early nineties when I heard Sheppard, Hamill, Surrett, Jonathan, Burger, and of course Ray Reese.
Daniel: The Kingsmen have a rich legacy of albums and songs. Do you have an all-time favorite Kingsmen album or song?
Chris: Wow! Where do I start? I am an avid LP collector and have all the great classic Kingsmen “Live” albums. My favorite Kingsmen album is probably Stand-Up at Opryland USA. Among my favorite Kingsmen songs… Meet Me At The Table, The Judgment, He’s All I Need, Saints Will Rise, and Love Lifted Me top my Kingsmen list.
Daniel: If you could go back in time and be in the audience for one of the Kingsmen’s live album tapings, which one would you pick, and why?
Chris: Live Naturally, recorded in Mt. Vernon, IL To be a part of a monumental recording with Big Jim Hamill, Ernie Phillips, Wayne Maynard, Ray Dean Reese, Anthony Burger, and Eldridge Fox would be a dream come true. To me, this was an important album in the Kingsmen’s legacy. Included Excuses, When My Feet Touch the Streets of Gold, Love Lifted Me, Beautiful Home, I’ll Drop My Anchor, and many others. The energy, passion, and zeal with which they sang is a heritage I am proud to be a part of and we plan to continue that legacy.
Daniel: What are your all-time-favorite song(s) and singer(s)?
Chris: Oh What A Savior, Somebody Touched Me, Boundless Love, and In My Robe of White are some of my favorite songs. Some of the individual singers whose technique I have listened to and studied have been, Brian Free, Danny Funderburk, Jerry Martin, and Steve Ladd in Southern Gospel. I also enjoy the vocal styles of Celine Dion and Steve Perry, along the more secular line.
Daniel: Could you tell us about your family?
Chris: My family consisting of my wife, Kimberly, and out two children, Britney Nicole and Ryan William live in a suburb of Greensboro, NC. When I am home from the road, we enjoy going to the movies, cooking at home, and dining at our favorite restaurant, P.F. Changs!
Daniel: What are the best ways for fans to keep up with you, and with the latest news from the Kingsmen?
Chris: The Kingsmen can be contacted through our website, www.kingsmenquartet.com. For the latest news and updates you may also visit us on Facebook and Twitter.