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Heart, soul and a new groove
In Coupeville, he’s known as the school music director - a dedicated teacher and role model for members of the band. But back in the 1970s, he was a leader of the soul scene in the Pacific Northwest playing the roles of guitarist and vocalist for the band “Cold, Bold & Together.”
Now, nearly 30 years later, Jamar Jenkins hasn’t lost touch with funk. Today he plays for “Wheedle’s Groove,” a group composed of musicians from different ‘70s soul bands.
Jenkins and his twin brother, T.C., met the other three original members of “Cold, Bold & Together” in a dormitory at Western Washington State College. As a whole, they decided to drop out of college in the early ‘70s and move to Seattle to pursue music.
“Even though we were only 19, we had been playing for money since we were like 13,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said it was difficult to establish a reputation in the city until 1971 when the group won the best band award at the first Black Community Festival. Also, Jenkins added, despite the fact that all of the original members were from Tacoma or Seattle, they told everyone they were from Cleveland.
“It kind of gave us a little mystique,” he said.
Throughout the decade, the band booked numerous gigs, produced its own 45 records and opened for big names like “Kool & the Gang,” “KC & the Sunshine Band,” “Canned Heat” and “Earth, Wind & Fire.”
“It was incredible,” Jenkins said. “We got to play with the guys we idolized.”
During its roughly eight-year career, CBT added members and lost others. Jenkins said the most well-known group was “version three” when the now-famous sax player Kenny G. joined.
The band split up in 1979, so Jenkins went back to school. He played in the University of Washington jazz band with Kenny G. and continued to play at special events like Broadway shows and Seahawks games.
For the past six years, Jenkins has served as Coupeville’s music director and has also directed pieces for the Whidbey Playhouse, but recently he’s gotten back into the soul scene. A few years ago, DJ Mr. Supreme discovered singles from Seattle’s soul days and convinced Light in the Attic Records to do a compilation album of different artists. “Cold, Bold & Together” had two songs chosen.
Jenkins said artists from the album were asked to play a gig in 2004 under the album’s title, “Wheedle’s Groove.”
“It was pretty unbelievable,” Jenkins said. “The show sold out, and there were lines around the block.”
The new group then performed at Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s inauguration and is scheduled to play in the popular music festival Bumbershoot this September at Seattle Center alongside artists like Bob Dylan and Mary J. Blige.
Jenkins said the opportunity to play with his old rivals is like getting a Christmas present he never expected and said each individual contributes a unique element to the group.
This year, a documentary entitled “Wheedle’s Groove” premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival featuring the artists and the Northwest’s forgotten soul scene. Now the movie has been shown in at least 10 festivals across the country and recently premiered in Australia.
“I never thought of it as so important,” Jenkins said. “It lets you see that it was an important scene ... It’s gratifying that we still get to play some of these songs.”
Jenkins said everything he learned throughout his career now helps him give Coupeville students a solid education.
“I never really thought about it until recently that that part of me has morphed into me as a teacher,” he said. “I have actual professional experience. It was like anything in life. You had to work hard. People look at all the glitz and the glamor of music, but they don’t realize the hard work that goes into it. I try to bring that philosophy to my students.”