Wayne Henderson was born in Grayson County, Virginia, where he lives today. He is a full-time instrument builder and musician, specializing in building guitars, and playing in a unique finger-picking style. Though he has lived in Virginia all of his life, Henderson has played countless performances in Western North Carolina, been a member of Western North Carolina bands, and influenced many regional musicians, through both his music and craft. He developed a unique style of using a thumbpick and fingerpicks, making his playing sound like flatpicking, with fast, accurate, and clean notes.
Henderson’s father and uncle were musicians who played with Estil Ball, an admired finger-style guitar player from the area who influenced Wayne’s playing. Inspired by Ball, Wayne ordered a cheap guitar from the Sears catalogue. Disappointed with that instrument, he decided to build his own guitar, out of a used dresser drawer bottom. When he struggled to find the proper glue for his newly crafted instrument, he sought out the advice of a neighbor, Albert Hash, who built fiddles and other instruments. With Hash’s encouragement, Wayne continued working on his instrument building.
He sold his second guitar in exchange for some tools and cash. “Ever since,” he says, “somebody’s wanted one as soon as I get it finished.” For years he worked as a rural mail carrier, spending his off-time performing and building guitars and other instruments. He has become so famous that he has a long backlog of orders placed for guitars. Henderson has built guitars for Doc Watson, Gillian Welch, Peter Rowan, and Eric Clapton.
Wayne Henderson has trained several apprentices, taught intensive workshops, and given informal discussions about instrument building and repair. He has been a regularly featured instructor at the Augusta Heritage workshops in Elkins, West Virginia.
Henderson is an accomplished performer. He has won more than 300 ribbons at fiddlers’ convention competitions. He was featured as part of the Masters of the Steel Guitar tours, and has traveled internationally. Wayne has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Smithsonian Institution, on A Prairie Home Companion, and for the 1992 presidential inauguration. He has hosted the annual Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition since 1995. Winning the competition is said to be the only way to skip ahead of the waiting list for a Henderson Guitar.
Wayne Henderson is available for performances and workshops on instrument building.