The banjo strumming Lincoln County Outlaw has friends in high places.
Butch Jenkins, a local musician, regularly shares the stage with his idol â€“ Raymond Fairchild, a bluegrass legend.
â€œI didnâ€™t think I would ever get to see Raymond play in person, and here I am picking with him on stage,â€ said Jenkins.
Jenkins now has his first compact disc out featuring Fairchild, Wayne Crowe and Terrie Barnes.
â€œIt was a big honor to have Raymond play on the CD,â€ said Tina Jenkins, his wife. â€œHe has backed it 100 percent.â€
Jenkins first met his idol at Fairchildâ€™s Maggie Valley Opry House.
â€œI went there two or three times, and I finally caught him,â€ he said.
The two made fast friends after Fairchild heard a song Jenkinâ€™s wrote titled â€œRaymondâ€™s Opry House.â€
â€œHe said â€˜I like that. Itâ€™s about me. Anything about me â€“ thatâ€™s good,â€ said Jenkins.
The two played music on Fairchildâ€™s porch for an hour and a half, and Fairchild told Jenkins he recognized star quality.
â€œHe knew I wasnâ€™t a run of the mill boy,â€ said Jenkins. â€œHe said â€˜Heâ€™s got it.â€™â€
Soon after, Fairchild invited Jenkins to share the stage with him. Jenkins now picks with Fairchild every weekend the opry house is open.
â€œRaymond got me back on stage and back in overdrive again,â€ said Jenkins.
Before playing with Fairchild, Jenkins had a spent a long time simply playing at home with friends.
In his youth, he had fronted country music bands. As early as 15, he was playing at strip clubs and bars.
â€œThey slipped me into some places I wasnâ€™t supposed to be,â€ Jenkins said of his old band.
As an adult, Jenkins has worked driving a mixer truck. Since he picked up the banjo, heâ€™s made a point of playing it in his sleeper.
Despite the judgments of some country loving friends, Jenkins is committed to his bluegrass transition.
â€œI reckon I had played country music so long, I juste wanted to switch over,â€ he said. â€œI liked the ring of that banjo.â€
Although his new CD is a bluegrass album, it includes songs like â€œYouâ€™re Cheating Heartâ€ by country legend Hank Williams. It also has the song he wrote about Fairchild.
Fairchildâ€™s first impression of Jenkins has its mark on the CD as well.
â€œWhen we walked in, he took a look at Butch, and he just told him he looked like an outlaw,â€ said his wife.
Jenkins has since been known as â€œThe Lincoln County Outlaw,â€ and his album uses that name.
The title of the CD is â€œIn the Hills of North Carolina,â€ and it has already become a big hit in Lincolnton.
â€œHeâ€™s selling them like crazyâ€ said his wife.
His famous friend is proud of Jenkinsâ€™ efforts. The two men talk often, and when Fairchild calls he always asks â€œIs the outlaw home?â€
â€œMe and Raymond have come to be real good friends,â€ said Jenkins. â€œHe calls me everyday, or I call him, and we shoot the breeze.â€
by Sarah Grano