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San Clemente Journal

The Four Muses, Keeping the Legacy Alive

Feb 25, 2024 01:52PM ● By Mary Colarik

Current photo of Jonathan at his home studio.

by Mary Colarik

Music has the distinct ability to unite people of different ages, backgrounds and cultures. Author Kahil Gibran once said, “Music is the language of spirit. It opens a secret life bringing peace, abolishing strife.” 


Here in San Clemente in the 1960s and early ‘70s one family unintentionally united many different musicians, and it all began with guitar lessons for local children in Jim and Mary Jenkins’ living room. 

I was invited into Jonathan Morgan Jenkins’ home in San Juan Capistrano one early winter afternoon to reminisce about his family’s music legacy in San Clemente. Aptly named, The Four Muses, he shared his past, present and future plans for his musical endeavors. 
Jonathan is the middle son of Mary and Jim Jenkins, Michael being the older and Jeffrey the younger. The three Jenkins boys grew up surrounded by music, including many musicians who got their start in San Clemente before going on to being well established and well-known famous musical artists who performed at The Four Muses Musical Club and at San Clemente High School. 

Veterans of the Four Muses: Steve Martin, Linda Rohnstadt, Jackson Browne, Glenn Frey, Taj Mahal, Corky Carroll, Hoyt Axton, Honk, JD Souther, Tim Weisberg, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhe, John Stewart, Hedge & Donna, Hoyt Axton, John Hammond, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and our own Barbie Aglio are a few...


There were so many who made their way to and performed here in town, including: Linda Ronstadt - who performed at San Clemente High School ($5a ticket) - Jackson Browne, Glenn Frey, Taj Mahal, Corky Carroll, Hoyt Axton, Honk, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and David Ackles. Also, Elton John’s mentor, who was Elton John’s opening act at The Troubadour in Los Angeles (Elton’s first American performance), Steve Martin, who played the banjo with his comedy routine, Gordon Lightfoot, John Stewart, singer and songwriter, also a member of the Kingston Trio, and The Sandals who provided the musical score for the documentary film, Endless Summer. John Blakely of the Sandals even lived with the Jenkins at one time. 


Many more who were upcoming musicians in the 1960s and ‘70s spent time with the Jenkins not only performing at the shows but also sharing meals and conversation in the Jenkins family home. So you can imagine the stories the young boys heard around the dining table and at their parents’ Four Muses Music Club. 

Jim and Mary Jenkins were living in Northern Orange County where Jim, who had a BA degree in Cinema and a Minor in engineering from USC, was working as an executive in the aerospace industry. His wife, Mary enjoyed singing and playing the guitar in small folk gatherings. In the summer they headed to the local mountain community of Idyllwild with their young sons to attend music camp. It was after attending a few of these summer music camps in the late 1950s that they decided to move to San Clemente. In those days it was a straight shot up a two-lane highway to Jim’s job in Fullerton, so, it was easy to reside in a charming beach town and commute north. 


Mary was busy teaching guitar lessons to local children. These students began performing in the living room along with other up and coming musical talent. Mary and Jim soon realized that they needed to expand to a larger space as it was getting a bit tight in the family’s living room, so in 1965 they opened a music lesson center on Avenida de la Estrella in the building directly across from the Presbyterian Church.

Jim eventually quit his job at Hughes Corporation, becoming the business manager for the burgeoning business. They soon expanded to three spaces in the building to include merchandise, musical instruments and a folk-rock music club for performances that were booked Thursday-Sunday evenings. Thursday nights were Surf Film nights where pioneers like Bruce Brown were invited to screen their early productions to a live audience. 

The three Jenkins sons got an early taste of performing on the small stage with a live audience. When Jonathan was in 5th grade, he helped form his own surf band, The Exceptions. He and his classmates, Randy Johnson, Steve Gasparro, and Bob Lindberg played tunes at local parties and were invited to perform at their 6th grade Graduation from Ole Hanson Elementary. 
The Hootenanny nights were lively nights like open mic nights with different entertainers getting up on stage to perform a few songs. Hootenanny is a Scottish word meaning, “celebrations at an informal gathering with folk music and sometimes dancing.” The cabaret was not fancy, but did offer refreshments in the back with soda, apple cider, sandwiches and a few pastries. The musicians were able to mingle there between acts. 


A family affair; Michael, Mary, Jeffrey, Jonathan, and Dad, Jim Jenkins.

 n 1966 Mary performed at the Dana Harbor Rock Placing Ceremony at Doheny. Nine years later in 1975 The Four Muses produced, the Sea and Folk Music program as the Harbor was being dedicated when the Pilgrim Ship first sailed into Dana Point Harbor. Mother Mary, as she was affectionally called by the youngsters and musicians, and son Jonathan performed during this official OC opening dedication program for the new harbor. The family also participated in the yearly Fiesta Parade on Del Mar, complete with instruments and a sound system.   
Sadly, The Four Muses era ended in 1975 with the premature death of Jim Jenkins. Mary was unable to keep the business afloat on her own, so the family business closed. In 1977, due to having a large PA system, Jonathan was invited to Nixon’s western White House to set up the sound system for events at Casa Pacifica.
The Four Muses had changed the lives of many people. As Jonathan says, “Music is healing, holding things together.” Mary eventually remarried and spent many years working at the local DMV office. The boys grew up and started their own lives.  

Jonathan attended Cal State Fullerton, graduating with a BA in Choral and Instrumental Music Education with a California Teaching Credential. After a short stint as a teacher with music programs being cut, he opened his own studio coaching hundreds of vocalists. In 1992 Jenkins founded the Capistrano Chorale music group with 10 women. The group added men and grew to 65 members who performed 10 shows per year in Orange County including a yearly show at the Barclay Theatre in Irvine. Meanwhile, younger brother Jeff managed live concerts at the San Clemente Miramar Theatre until it closed. He was soon hired by Edwards Theatre Group and worked his way up to Senior Management.  

In 1995 Jonathan moved to San Juan Capistrano, building a small studio inside his home. In 2010 he returned to college graduating with two more degrees in Cinema and Post Production. He and his wife, Sasha, a jazz singer, have been reviving evening “Hoots” since 2020.

The 4MusesLive features pre-recorded living room concerts. Jenkins is always on the lookout for talented musicians who would like to play an instrument and/or sing. Each pre-recorded session highlights four-five people singing three songs each with the pre-recorded event lasting about 60 minutes. Jonathan also decided to create a Four Muses Facebook page in 2010 to honor his Mother who passed in 2007. The site encourages people to share stories and photos of those bygone days of the famous music spot in San Clemente. The group page has 652 members. He also has a website, The website is filled with photos and history of The Four Muses and promotes their business of stage production, music video production and voice lessons.  

While visiting and chatting with Jonathan at his home filled with framed photos, prints, posters and vintage six and 12-string guitars it was obvious to see how his parents helped instill his love of music and creative endeavors. He has so many stories about the beginnings of how the folk music-rock-n-roll scene erupted in the early 1960s - ‘70s with many young musicians performing gigs in the coastal and inland towns in little clubs from LA to San Diego. 

One great story shared is how he acquired Richard Nixon’s piano from his talented friend Corky Carroll, a local professional surfer and musician. Yes, President Richard Nixon’s piano is in Jonathan’s front room. The sound is still very clear and sharp, as he played a tune for me. 
A true Renaissance man he also spent 10 years as a pilot, flying private planes from 2000-2010, and now flies drones for his video and audio production company, Performance Production Services. Currently, he is also working on a film about a 17-year-old girl, “The Cage,” one of his five screenplays. He also recently produced a film documentary for the Fred Swegles Memorial Paddle Out, honoring the 50-year veteran journalist. Fred’s sister Valerie was in Jonathan’s class at SCHS. Jonathan and his brother’s lives were changed by their parents’ vision of offering a creative space to learn music and perform on a stage in front of a live audience. Many lives have been changed by their experiences with The Four Muses.

For more information visit the Facebook Site or the website