This FMCA member makes rally entertainment fun by mixing music with humor and audience participation.
By Peggy Jordan
It’s the unplanned things that make life fun, and because he recognizes that, Matt Jenkins, F307407, can put merriment into any FMCA gathering. He says his best shows happen when a crowd participates and you’re not sure what will happen next.
Similarly, Matt really didn’t plan to join FMCA and be favored by motorhomers. But the 52-year-old now loves the motorhoming way of life and enjoys keeping RVers singing, dancing, and laughing when they gather for rallies or conventions.
Matt entered the RV lifestyle when he purchased an almost-converted MCI bus six years ago. “I got it from a gospel singer; it was three-quarters done,” he explained. He finished the job and became accustomed to the new way of life. A few years later, while he was shopping for furniture in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington, a man saw his bus and asked him if he was a “Bus Nut,” referring to FMCA’s Bus Nuts chapter. That chance meeting eventually led to Matt’s membership in FMCA in March 2002.
Fellow FMCA members soon learned of Matt’s musical talents, and by June 2002 he was entertaining at the Northwest Area Rally in Moses Lake, Washington. “That was my first big show, and it mushroomed from there,” he explained.
Since then Matt has performed at a number of FMCA area rallies, a Freightliner chassis owners’ rally, and at the 2004 FMCA international convention in Redmond, Oregon. Matt’s talents include singing; the ability to play just about any musical instrument; plus a knack for comedy, great banter between songs, and, equally as important, instigating audience participation.
Not only does Matt make the audience happy while he’s onstage, but he also has his own sound and light system, which he leases out. It can be set up and then used throughout the rally for entertainment. The system has been used at FMCA area rallies already, and is booked for future events.
It helps that Matt has had plenty of experience in the entertainment business. While growing up in Tacoma, Matt played “about every instrument there is,” as he put it. Tuba was his main instrument throughout high school and college. He played with rock bands, as well as several country bands and jazz bands. Matt has been a house entertainer at a Washington coast resort and at the Maui Lu resort in Hawaii. He also has performed on boats for Tacoma Harbor Tours. On top of that, Matt has done commercials and a movie, and has dabbled in theater work.
A father of three children, ages 24 and 28 (the 28-year-olds are twins), Matt is now single. He transitions between Palm Springs, California, in the colder months, and Tacoma. And he is now living in the MCI full-time. He rents out his stationary houses in Tacoma and Palm Springs. He has a motorcycle that he tows behind the MCI on occasion; other times, he tows a trailer. Of course, the lighting and sound equipment that he leases can be hauled along with him and his coach.
Because he believes in letting the fun flow naturally, there is no regular formula to a Matt Jenkins program. “I never plan anything,” he said. “Once the people start getting involved, I work off of what they are doing.”
However, the elements usually stay the same. Matt starts by setting up the keyboards that he plays, or gets out a guitar, and sings some tunes.
“He sings all kinds of songs, including ballads, oldies, newer songs … He sounds hauntingly like Kenny Rogers, but in my opinion, he is a far more talented singer than Kenny,” said former Northwest Area vice president Jim Phillips, F158824.
What happens after that depends on audience participation. It may be a skit, a dance contest, or a singalong. “One of my events is a dance contest and I have prizes,” Matt said. “I had an Elvira contest at Mount Hood (rally),” he said. A “Chicken Dance” added merriment to part of his show during another rally. And at the Northwest Area Rally in Albany, Oregon, this past June, a magic skit involving Jim Phillips garnered attention.
“He started the routine by donning a swami cape and headgear. He introduced me to the crowd and assured them that I had not been given any information in advance,” Jim recalled. “He blindfolded me, asked me questions, most of which had numerical answers, then casually stamped his foot the number of times of the answer. It was corny, but the crowd loved it. I’ve had a lot of people comment about how well he handled that. When he finished our act, the audience gave us a standing ovation.”
This past September Matt was slated as the Saturday night performer at the Rocky Mountain Area Rally in Winnemucca, Nevada. But on the Friday prior to that, he wound up helping to fill in when the scheduled performers could not make it.
Duane Pindell, F105443, Rocky Mountain Area vice president, enjoyed Matt’s work quite a bit. “Matt has a unique sense of humor “” it is like having a ‘big party’ when he entertains. He does a good, clean show. He relates his show to his audience.”
Being an RVer himself makes it just that much easier for Matt to relate to the RV crowd. “They are the best bunch of people,” Matt said. “It’s a great market to be in.”
It helps that Matt knows the kind of music many FMCA members like “” songs they can sing along with. He gives everyone the chance to enjoy fun, live versions of tunes such as “Cab Driver,” “Dream, Dream, Dream,” “Pink Cadillac,” “Kansas City,” “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” and more.
Which leads us to the future, and the new CD that Matt will release soon. “I have my own recording studio and I do that stuff all myself,” he explained. The CD was scheduled to be available by January 2006.
For more information about Matt’s CD or to contact him about entertainment or his sound and lighting equipment, call (253) 380-9494 or visit www.mattjenkins.net.