A Brush with Authenticity - Wayne Henderson

    Henderson works meticulously on his next guitar.


    A Brush with Authenticity

    Travelers who crave something real, meaningful and pure are finding their way to Virginia. The Old Dominion's cultural traditions are as diverse and beautiful as the people who keep them alive - from the hollows of Appalachia to the tobacco barns of Southern Virginia to the crab shacks of the Chesapeake Bay. These are the places where visitors can touch, hear, see and be something extraordinary, even if only for a moment.

    Wayne Henderson

    Wayne Henderson's passion and skill for building acoustic guitars reached all the way from Virginia's Appalachian Mountains to the eyes and ears of Eric Clapton. Between jam sessions, concert dates at Carnegie Hall and delivering mail, Henderson built Clapton's guitar - and the legend was born.

    Henderson, now a master luthier, has given up life as a mail man and puts all his energy into crafting guitars and authentic mountain music along The Crooked Road, Virginia's Heritage Music Trail - one of the places in Virginia where visitors enjoy a brush with authenticity. Fans can catch Henderson strumming one of his own at his annual Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition at Grayson Highlands State Park in Mouth of Wilson. Held on the third Saturday of June each year, the festival brings together the region's top bluegrass and mountain musicians in a family-friendly setting.



    Wayne Henderson has remained firmly planted not far from his boyhood home in Rugby, population seven. Ever humble, he remains unfazed by the "world class guitar maker" hype.

    • Born: May 3, 1947, Grayson County
    • Built First Guitar: age 14, from a dresser drawer bottom
    • Production Time: two to three weeks
    • Waiting Period: up to 10 years
    • Notable Clients: Eric Clapton, Doc Watson, Gillian Welch, Peter Rowan

    Eric Clapton ordered two identical guitars - one for himself and one to auction for charity. The process is chronicled in Allen St. John's book, Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument: Clapton's Guitar. The duplicate was auctioned off in May 2006 at Christies. It sold for $31,200 - the highest ever paid for a guitar made by a living American luthier.


    The Crooked Road

    Wayne Henderson jams with Governor Tim Kaine at the Carter Family Fold Henderson jams with former Governor Tim Kaine. 

    The Crooked Road - Virginia's Heritage Music Trail is a driving tour through the Appalachian Mountains following U.S. Route 58 and connects heritage music venues in the region. Taking the road-less-traveled will lead you to these fantastic finds:

    Your next trip across Virginia should be a crooked one!

Last Updated: 2/18/2014 9:18 AM
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