“Thicker Than Water” documents the couple, their three daughters, one son (and his wife) and one granddaughter, who all live in the Nashville suburbs in what they un-self-consciously call the Tankard Palace. In addition to sermonizing, Ben is a popular musician making chirpy, inconsequential, gospel-inflected instrumental jazz. Permanently avuncular, he has the air of a man who has awakened in an amusement park and then mischievously swallowed the keys, lest anyone try to expel him.
“Thicker” is in the Brady/Cleaver-clean mold of “Run’s House,” which ran for six seasons of musician-minister millionaire fun on MTV. But Rev Run was modest, and his children were fickle materialists in the making. Here, Ben and Jewel set the tone of enthused wealth, giddily cataloging their possessions. When Jewel asserts, “This black Barbie flies private or she stays home,” it doesn’t sound as if it were the first time she’s made the point.
Ben Tankard, known as the Godfather of the Gospel Jazz music scene — is the genre’s best-selling artist/producer of all-time, picking up several gold records and awards along the path of a critically-acclaimed career. Outside of music, Ben is a former professional basketball player and motivational speaker for the NBA’s Development League (D-League). With success his end goal, he uses his competitive spirit to empower others to develop their hidden talents. In addition to working with his wife, children, and church family to achieve their spiritual and business goals, he is launching his “Full Tank” big and tall men’s clothing line and writing a new self-help book entitled The Full Tank Life. His three favorite hobbies are shining his monster truck, flying his airplanes, and finding new ways to surprise his wife Jewel.
Jewel is the wife of Gospel Jazz artist Ben Tankard and making international strides as a businesswoman, author and evangelist. With her deeply embedded roots in entrepreneurship, Jewel is a fierce advocate for personal development and financial empowerment. To that end, she mentors others to invoke new ideas in order to inspire them to dream and create change in their lives. Jewel’s perspective is that prayer is paramount to success and she is deeply committed to giving people, especially women, a picture of what is possible. When she’s not involved in ministry, closing a business deal or tending to their blended family, Jewel loves boating, jet skiing, tubing, and dancing.
Benji and Shanira Tankard are young newlyweds with big dreams and bigger ambitions. By day, Benji works as a manager in construction and Shanira is currently a student pursuing her degree in fashion design.