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Wayne Henderson at Linville Falls Winery

By Derek Halsey (

Article Published: Oct. 10, 2013 | Modified: Oct. 13, 2013
Wayne Henderson at Linville Falls Winery

Guitar virtuoso and luthier Wayne Henderson will perform Saturday at Linville Falls Winery.

Photo by Frank Ruggiero

The fall foliage season will have its own soundtrack Saturday, when acclaimed guitarist and luthier Wayne Henderson brings his trio to Linville Falls Winery this Saturday.

Henderson is as well known for guitar building as his amazing talent for playing the instrument. He has handcrafted guitars for many top artists in the music world, including Eric Clapton and Doc Watson. Some of his guitars have been resold on the market for more than $20,000.

As a kid, Henderson always had a fascination for working with wood. He grew up in a family that included musicians, and he learned to play guitar at an early age so he could back up his father, who played the fiddle. When he was allowed to play the high-quality guitar of a family friend, that is when a light went off.

“(Musician) E.C. Ball, who lived in the neighborhood here, had a nice old Martin guitar, and I was just amazed at that thing,” Henderson said. “I couldn’t afford a guitar like that, but I was always fascinated and amazed at how good that thing sounded. I’d go look at it. I had made stuff all of my life. I made the toys that I played with, and I was always a whittler and carver. While I was looking at that old guitar one day, even though it was a nice old Martin, I thought, ‘Well, this thing isn’t made out of nothing but wood. I should be able to make one.’ So, I set in on it and made some feeble attempts at it without having any instruction or tools.”

After Henderson’s first foray into guitar building, his luthier talent eventually grew to the point where his seventh guitar sold for a considerable price. That is when he began to take the craft seriously.

“A local moonshiner came by with a stranger,” Henderson said. “We were scared of him because we figured that he had to be a crook hanging out with the local moonshiner. But the moonshiner was kin to us, so we knew him and (weren’t) worried about him at all. We just knew that he was the most prominent person in the community, and this fellow that was with him wanted to see that guitar that I made. It was very unusual, back in the 1960s, for somebody to make an instrument. It was unheard of. (The stranger) wanted to play the guitar, and he wanted to buy it. Of course, I didn’t want to sell it. It was the best guitar I had, and it worked good and played good, and it was pretty. I had made it like a D-45 Martin with pearl all over it, inlayed with nothing but a pocket knife. That is all I had to work with.

“I told my Granny that I was going to price the guitar at an astronomical price so as to get rid of him. So, I told him that I’d have to have $500 for it. That was more money than I had ever seen or heard tell of, and he played it a while and then left. The next afternoon, he came back and wanted to play that guitar again by himself. We were really worried about him then, because he wasn’t with the fellow we knew. He played on it for 30 minutes and was about ready to leave when he said, ‘Well, I think I’ll just take the guitar.’

“He had five $100 bills in his shirt pocket, and he gave them to me. I was shocked to lose my guitar, but that was more money than I had ever seen. I told my Granny, I said, ‘Lord, if I could make money like this, then that is what I’m going to do!’”

Henderson will perform with fiddler Helen White and bassist and guitarist Herb Key from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, at Linville Falls Winery. Located just a mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway, the winery can be found at 9775 Linville Falls Highway (U.S. 221), south of Newland.

For more information, including directions, visit or call (828) 765-1400.

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