A Gatlinburg Honeymoon, 1945

My grandparents were married 68 years ago today – September 18th, 1945, in Old Hickory, TN. They stayed the night at the Hermitage Hotel (see earlier post), then borrowed a car and drove to Gatlinburg, TN with no plan whatsoever. One week and two rolls of film later, my grandfather pieced together a rather entertaining memento of the trip inside their souvenir Snap Shots album.

Said memento is currently in my possession and I think it’s too awesome to keep hidden away in a drawer, so I present to you my grandparents’ honeymoon, 1945. A gallery of the entire 68 year-old photo album can be enjoyed here, if you so desire.

The outtakes:





While in the Smoky Mountains last year, my wife and I stopped by that hotel and with the help of a kind octogenarian behind the front desk, excavated the 1945 guest book.


A ‘secret’ spot along the mountain stream discovered by my grandparents has become a place of pilgrimage for the Jerkins family. Some of my greatest rock-skipping triumphs have taken place on this water:


Dad Jerkins:

Dad Jerkins and Uncle Gary:

The Brothers Jerkins. Yours truly, far right:


Myself and The Boy:

Old Family Photos

It is a safe assumption that nearly every human living in modern civilization after about 1860 had at least one photo made during his/her lifetime. And best I can tell, I have had at least 71 direct ancestors walking the planet after 1860 (four grandparents, eight great grandparents, 16 great-great grandparents, etc.). Of those 71, I’ve seen the faces of 35.5 (one photo was just eyes and forehead). The others are probably on the walls of Cracker Barrels across America, watching brunchgoers play the peg game forevermore. Nevertheless, I keep searching.

I have proudly displayed selections of my photographic booty in a gallery to your left. But I’d like to share some of my wife’s family, in photographic form as well. The collection isn’t nearly as extensive, but I’m working on it.

John Calvin Davis family STEPHEN JERKINS

My wife’s great great grandfamily in El Dorado, AR about 1896

The Hermitage Hotel

Ray and Geraldine Jerkins were married on a Tuesday night, September 18th, 1945 in Old Hickory, TN. They stayed the night at the splendid Hermitage Hotel, before their Gatlinburg honeymoon. I found this in a folder of my grandmother’s keepsakes.

Once $9 a night, now $279 and up:

Earlier that day:


Happy Presidents’ Day

In honor of Presidents’ Day, here’s a photo of JFK taken by my grandad, Ray Jerkins, during the president’s visit to Nashville on May 18th, 1963 – just six months before that car visited to Dallas. My grandad, dad and uncle caught this glimpse along the side of the road, on the president’s path from the Nashville airport to Vanderbilt, where JFK delivered a speech that afternoon.


The photo was among a long-lost stash of 35mm family Kodachrome slides that I recently sifted through and had scanned. Some of the better discoveries:


Above: My mom’s family in Town Creek, Alabama, Battle Creek, Michigan and South Dakota in the 1950’s


Above: My grandparents in Pakistan and India in the late 1960’s


Above: My dad’s family during the 1950’s and 1960’s in Nashville.

1960’s Nashville

My dad was in a band in the late 60’s called The Townsmen. Part Chet Atkins and part Smothers Brothers, the Townsmen were all Nashville-class. Their matching suits certainly didn’t hurt the cause.

This cover band, which also included my dad’s younger brother Gary, began during high school and ran its course by the end of college. And for whatever reason, most – if not all – photos from that time never made their way into photo albums. Instead, I had to discover them in shoeboxes at my grandparents’ house. But since then, I’ve come to learn about and appreciate some of my dad’s experiences. Their biggest claim to fame, besides touring on a bill with Conway Twitty and carpooling a ride home from Hank Williams Jr., was being hired as the backing band for Ray Walker of the The Jordanaires. Ray Walker is the one to the far right of the guy snapping his fingers:

Elvis-and-the Jordanaires
(above photo by an unknown person from the 1950’s)

The Townsmen mostly played youth rallies, social events and one-offs with Mr. Walker. But in June 1968, they performed at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Percy Priest Dam, backing the Jordanaires (as seen below… Dad Jerkins on far right, brother Gary two turtlenecks to the left). President Lyndon B. Johnson was on hand for this one.

Dad-with-Jordanaires-June-1968-Percy-Priest-Dam-Gordon-Stoker-Ray-Walker-copyright-Stephen-Jerkins More photos, courtesy of my grandad:


Pretend-rehearsing with Ray Walker (1966). Dad Jerkins seated with guitar.

2-The-Townsmen-and-Ray-Walker1. Townsmen press photo (1969). Dad Jerkins in back with Buddy Holly glasses, Uncle Gary seated in front 2. Playbill (1967)

3-Ray-Walker-and-the-Townsmen-at-David-Lipscomb-College-copyright-Stephen-Jerkins Townsmen with Ray Walker at David Lipscomb College (1967)

4-Bobby-Goldsboro-and-The-Townsmen-copyright-Ray-Jerkins 1. Dad Jerkins, Trion, GA (1971) 2. Dad and future Mom Jerkins (1969) 3. Dad Jerkins and The Gretsch Country Gentleman (1969) 4. The Townsmen and Bobby Goldsboro, David Lipscomb College (1968).

So by the transitive property of my dad’s musical career, I’m Kevin-Bacon-style one degree away from playing music with Ray Walker and Pat Boone (see below), and only two degrees away from Elvis, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Waylon Jennings, Ringo Starr, Dolly Parton, Perry Como, Red Foley, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Ozzy Osbourne and plenty more. In return, all I can offer him is being one degree away from playing music with a guy who kind of looks like John Lennon.

1-Pat-Boon-Ray-Walker-Townsmen-Nashville Ray Walker and Pat Boone with The Townsmen. Dad Jerkins on far right (1967)


Soundcheck at David Lipscomb College (1969) 

Every show along the way included this 1965 Gretsch Country Gentleman, which I covet:

1965-Gretsch-Chet-Atkins-Country-Gentleman-by-Stephen-JerkinsLastly, my dad and uncle recorded several reels of live shows and basement recordings, produced and engineered by my dad. Here are a few favorites (click on the song title to read more about the recording):


EPILOGUE A few years ago I was at some sort of event at the Grand Ole Opry House. Ray Walker was there and I introduced myself as Stephen Jerkins. Upon the utterance of the name “Jerkins”, he grabbed my shoulders and semi-yelled “MY BOY!” and full-frontal hugged me. He held me close for at least 7 solid seconds. That’s a long time.

The Time I Was in a Children’s Book

Pre-iPhone years, my pocket-sized camera of choice was a 3.2 megapixel Sony CyberShot point-and-shoot, manufactured by the Japanese in 2002. Pocket-sized is a probably stretch – it was more like the size of a rectangular Rubik’s Cube. The one advantage the Rubik’s Cube allowed that the iPhone does not, was the ability to prop it on top of something – a backpack, a fence post, a statue of Woodrow Wilson – turn on the timer and sprint to get in the photo. I guess I could do that now with the iPhone, but it seems harder and riskier and I’m not as fast.

I recently rediscovered this album of Rubik’s Cube photos from band-touring in 2006-07 (see this master list of dates).  With no Instagram to brag about our travels, these were purely for our own entertainment. But rather than let them sit on my hard drive unseen for another 6 years, I’m posting a few here and now. Thank you for humoring me.


At the time, our band was called Jetpack. Through a strange series of events, we were featured in a loosely-educational children’s book. A month or two before the book was printed, we were made aware that another band named Jetpack already had a copyright on the name or, at least, better lawyers. So we temporarily called ourselves Jetpack UK so the book could be printed, while we figured out something more permanent. After the book release, a rad Michigander librarian named Bill Harmer helped us put together a tour of full-volume rock shows in libraries, elementary school cafetoriums and smoky rock clubs.

It’s worth noting that all full-band photos – minus one or two – were self-portraits involving the ‘camera timer and wind sprints’ technique, hence the lack of performance shots.


This is the book, one in a series marketed towards girls age 7 to 10 (not a joke). Other titles by this publisher include (also not a joke):

Be a Better Babysitter

Good Dog! Dog Care for Kids

– The Pony Guide

– Secrets of the Dolphins

Racer Girls

– Women in Space

I still have copies of ‘Inside a Rock Band’ if you want to buy one for your pre-adolescent daughters.

By mid-2007, our name officially became The Nobility.

It still is.


Vintage Holiday Inn

I love this shot I recently discovered in a box of old family photos. Not only do I love the content (somewhere in the south around 1972, my preacher and marriage and family therapist grandfather, seminar-ing in a Holiday Inn conference center and proudly photographing the marquee) and composition (the intersecting power lines behind the amazing hotel sign, perfectly centered), but I also love the colors… Kodachrome colors. RIP, Kodachrome – you will be missed.

Photo by E. Ray Jerkins

Buried Treasures

I sometimes find treasures in old picture frames, hidden behind decades of older photos. Here are two gems I recently found archaeological dig-style, buried behind faded photos of my grandparents from the mid-1980’s.

A: a late 60’s press photo to my dad, signed by the fabulous Jordanaires

B: the good wishes of Eddy Arnold to my grandmother, on one of my grandad’s business cards (phone number: AM 9-5852) .