Wayne Henderson, Clay Lunsford record album

By Derek Halsey (reporter@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Apr. 10 | Modified: Apr. 13
Wayne Henderson, Clay Lunsford record album

Celebrated guitarist and luthier Wayne Henderson will perform with fellow picker Clay Lunsford April 12 at Linville Falls Winery. The two musicians teamed up to release a new album, ‘Thumb to Thumb: The Museum Recordings.’

Photo by Frank Ruggiero

This Saturday, Linville Falls Winery will host a treat for all lovers of the guitar, when Wayne Henderson and Clay Lunsford perform together from 3 to 6 p.m.

Both Henderson and Lunsford are acclaimed “thumb and finger pick” style guitarists, and they have combined forces on a new duo CD, called “Thumb to Thumb: The Museum Recordings.” This concert will serve as CD release party for the album, which is fresh off the presses.

Henderson is a world-class musician, who is also known around the globe as an excellent instrument maker. Lunsford comes from a long line of musicians that can be traced back to Bascam Lamar Lunsford, who, while known as the Minstrel of the Appalachians, wrote such standard mountain songs as “Good Old Mountain Dew” and “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground.”

Henderson and Lunsford decided to record a duo album so they could showcase their different styles of playing the guitar with a thumb pick and fingers, especially in a day and age when most good guitar players use a flat pick.

“Clay is a thumb picker, a Chet Atkins/Jerry Reed-type picker,” Henderson said. “He’s about my age, and he and I are getting to be too old to be doing stuff like this. But we just went over in my little museum room over there (in his luthier shop in Rugby, Va.) and set up a tape recorder and made a CD. We sort of talked about doing it because we are thumb pickers, and there are always all kinds of hot flat pickers out there everywhere. The way I play is a strange style, because most of it sounds like flat picking. The way I play, I use my thumb to pick down and up and also use one finger, so it works like a flat pick. It sounds like there is a thumb picker and a flat picker playing at the same time. We go out and play every once in a while, and we wanted to have a CD to offer.”

Henderson’s unique method of playing the guitar happened naturally. It is an approach influenced by the fact that many of the guitarists he admired as a kid used a thumb pick.

“I have two finger picks, like a banjo player would use,” Henderson said. “I was influenced by Merle Travis to use a thumb pick. All of the guitar players that I knew when I was a kid, Maybelle Carter, Mr. E.C. Ball, who lived in my neighborhood, Chet Atkins, Merle Travis and Lester Flatt, they were all heroes of mine, and every last one of them used a thumb pick. But the music I wanted to play was my dad’s fiddle tunes, and to play the fiddle tunes, you need to be a flat picker. So, I had to devise a way that I could do that and still use my thumb pick.”

What makes the album and their performances work is the fact that even though Henderson and Lunsford play in a similar manner, their picking technique varies significantly, so they blend together in a nice way.

“They are plum different styles of playing,” Henderson said. “I sound like I’m a flat picker and he is totally a finger-style player. He plays a roll-type of lick like Chet Atkins. Sometimes, when we go out and perform, he’ll play ‘Yankee Doodle’ and ‘Dixie’ at the same time. He is one of my favorite players. He just plays with one thumb pick, and he goes to the beauty shop and gets his nails done so he can pick with his fingernails (laughs). And he usually plays a nylon string (classical) guitar. That is why the CD is called ‘Thumb to Thumb,’ as they are two totally different styles of playing, yet both are done with thumb picks. Linville Falls Winery is a really cool place to play. I’ve played there one time before, and I hope we have good weather so we can play out on the porch.”

Linville Falls Winery is located at 9557 Linville Falls Highway in Newland. For more information, including directions, visit http://www.linvillefallswinery.com, or call (828) 765-1400.

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