Hold Whatcha Got: A great ol’ guitar when it’s new

My friends Jill and Scott Freeman introduced me to a guy named Wayne at Merlefest in 1997 who was handing out flyers for the Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition. I thought it was odd that he happened to have the same first name as the man for whom the festival was named but chalked it up to one of those charming eccentricities of the South. I felt really stupid when I realized I had met THE Wayne Henderson while at the festival the following year.

In 2000 Scott drove me to Wayne’s shop in Rugby. I called Wayne after the visit, and asked that my name be added to “the list.” He said I’d have to keep after him, if I was going to get a guitar. People ran an article that week which stated Eric Clapton was waiting on Wayne.

When Scott and I were catching up on the phone in 2005, he mentioned that a new effort to bring tourism to southwestern Virginia had gathered musicians from “the Crooked Road” region. They were leaving for the N.Y. City area in just a few days. My wife Kristin and I were dating then, and she attended a concert with me in Irvington to hear Wayne Henderson and Friends, Montana Young, Gerald Anderson and Spencer Strickland, and No Speed Limit. Gerald invited me to join members of the tour who were coming into Grand Central the next day to have dinner and do some sightseeing. Problem was…Kristin and I had a date. When I told her on the phone that a bunch of the musicians were coming into the city, she interrupted me: yes, it would be fine if we spent the evening with the “musicians from Virginia.”

Kristin and I made our first trip to the Galax Fiddlers’ Convention later that year. We spoke about getting married at a winery near the Blue Ridge Parkway. I got to play old-time banjo on Gerald and Spencer’s 2008 CD, Been All Around this World. Wayne asked me to pick with him on a few occasions. Eventually, a guitar was born.

My Henderson #513 was completed just before Wayne’s pre-Christmas party last December, which I attended. Upon opening the case, I saw a lioness in the form of a D28. She had a medium amber Carpathian face with the back and curves of a brasileira. A powerful instrument, she is a presence even with my straightforward approach to playing. Bill Christophersen calls her “an engine” because of the virtual momentum of sound provided beneath a fast fiddle tune. Following the strummed final chord of a song during rehearsal once, a harmonic cloud hung in the air above us.

The Boxcars are the featured band at Wayne’s festival in June. The Gibson Brothers will be headlining in 2012. Kristin, Joseph, #513 and I, as well as our newest addition Mark Aram, will miss out this June but plan to go next year.