Instrument makers will contribute original works to auction to benefit Galax music festival and the programs it supports
By April Wright, Reporter
Monday, March 26, 2012 at 6:00 am (Updated: March 26, 12:01 pm)
READ ARTICLE AT THE GALAX GAZETTE
Shortly before young banjo prodigy, solider and firefighter Houston Caldwell was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2010 at the age of 18, he had sent local music legend and luthier Wayne Henderson a handwritten letter, telling of his admiration and how much he wanted to own a Wayne Henderson guitar one day.
Caldwell requested a guitar similar to the plain mahogany Martin D-18.
Henderson, along with friends and local music legends Gerald Anderson, Spencer Strickland and Jimmy Edmonds, each will donate an instrument to the HoustonFest live auction in memory of Caldwell.
Steve Huber will craft a Heritage Banjo for HoustonFest. The Huber banjo was a choice of Caldwell.
The live auction will be held during the second annual HoustonFest on May 4-5 in Felts Park in Galax. Funds from the live auction will go toward a Houston Caldwell Music Scholarship, Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) youth program, the Galax Volunteer Fire Department and operating expenses for HoustonFest.
The auction will be conducted by Kenneth Farmer Jr., owner of Ken Farmer Auctions & Appraisals, and a guest appraiser for “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS.
HOUSTONFEST ANNOUNCES MUSIC SCHOLARSHIP — CLICK HERE
Henderson, Anderson, Stickland and Edmonds had become musicians that Caldwell had looked up to over the years.
In fact, Caldwell’s letter to Henderson described how much he appreciated jamming with him.
“It was always my pleasure to get to pick with him,” said Henderson. “He was a masterful player, and if he was around, we always asked if he wanted to come up on stage and play a tune.”
Caldwell was different from other young musicians. Not only was he a great picker, but he was someone that everyone wanted to be around.
He was certainly a great musician, said Henderson, but a good attitude is key to making it in the music industry, or even in life.
“He could have been president if he wanted to,” said Henderson. “You couldn’t help but like him — he was friendly and always knew what to say. Not everyone has a knack for that.”
With a mind and spirit beyond his years, Caldwell had an old soul, said Henderson.
He had spent a lot of time in Henderson’s luthier shop in Grayson County. One of Henderson’s favorite memories is taking Caldwell for a ride in his 1957 Thunderbird, which Caldwell really got a kick out of, he said.
“He was always interested in everything, it seemed like. He wanted to learn about everything,” said Henderson. “When something tragic like that happens, I wish I could have been around him more. He was a young man that impressed me.”
Henderson said this gives him a chance to remember Caldwell and help out other young folks who have an interest in music.
“The JAM program is so important,” said Henderson, of the program that teaches youth how to play instruments. “I still remember how hard it was for me to learn when I was young.”
Henderson has helped out the JAM program and provides scholarships to young musicians during the annual Wayne Henderson Music Festival in Grayson County.
Anderson had worked alongside Henderson for years, learning how to craft instruments. For the auction, he will donate a mandolin.
“It’s important to honor his memory,” Anderson said of Caldwell. “As a musician, serviceman and fireman, he represented the whole community.”
Anderson will make a mandolin out of maple from Flat Ridge to create an instrument similar to a 1920s Gibson. Strickland, who has worked closely with Anderson over the years, will assist in making the instrument.
“Houston came to all the conventions, and over the years, I had noticed what a talented young man he was becoming,” said Anderson. “He was always so polite and talented.”
Edmonds said Caldwell always valued the opinions of fellow musicians.
Although the fiddle player and luthier spends most of his time making guitars and builds only a couple of fiddles a year, Edmonds will build a fiddle for the live auction.
Edmonds also learned from Henderson how to make instruments.
“Houston was always asking a lot of stuff: ‘What tune should I play and how should I play it?’” said Edmonds. “If he was around any event, he would let you know he was there, and he made you feel important.”
Caldwell worked hard but he had the natural ability that even allowed him to surpass the talents of some of his instructors, said Edmonds.
“He was just an all-around nice guy,” said Edmonds. “He had a general love for music and people, and he was interested in being the best he could be.”
When the community hosted a Jimmy Edmonds Homecoming event — when Edmonds returned to the Galax area after years of living and performing at Myrtle Beach, S.C. — Caldwell won the youth competition, taking home the prize of a banjo.
“I started playing music at 4 years old,” said Edmonds, who has served on the board of directors for the JAM program in Galax. “I had a lot of people to help me, and now I have the opportunity to help them.”
At the auction, bids will be taken from the audience, over the Internet and by phone.
• HoustonFest 2012 headliners include Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, John Berry, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Sierra Hull & Hwy 111 and Blue Highway, along with dozens of other bluegrass and country musicians.
For more information, visit houstonfestgalax.com.
Local ticket outlets include all Grayson National Bank locations, Roy’s Diamond Center and Barr’s Fiddle Shop in downtown Galax.
Radio Interviews are broadcast on FM-98.1 and via internet at BlueRidgeCountry98.com
Thursday, March 15 9:15pm……Freeman & Williams
Wed. March 21 8:15 pm Jeff Little Trio
Thurs.,March 22 8:15pm Jimmy Edmonds
Wed. March 28 8:15pm-Mark Handy/Mountain Park Oldtime Band
Thurs. March 29 8:15pm Adam Larkey Band
Wed. April 4
Thurs.April 5 8:15pm Doyle Lawson
Wed. April 11 8:15pm Blue Highway
Thurs. April 12 8:15pm Sierra Hull
Wed. April 18……..
Thurs. April 19…….
Wed. April 25…..
Wed. May 2…….
HoustonFest 2012 Announces
HoustonFest 2012 will host a very special live auction featuring acoustical instruments handcrafted by master luthiers of the Appalachian Region. A Wayne Henderson guitar, Jimmy Edmonds fiddle, Anderson – Strickland mandolin, and a Steve Huber banjo will be offered to the highest bidder. These much sought after instruments compose the Masters Auction to be conducted live on the Main Stage of HoustonFest 2012. The auction will be conducted by Mr. Kenneth Farmer Jr. owner of Ken Farmer Auctions & Appraisals, LLC and a guest appraiser on PBS television Antiques Roadshow. Bids will be taken from the audience, over the internet, and by phone.
Wayne Henderson makes highly sought-after guitars in his shop is in southwest Virginia. Wayne and his guitars need little introduction these days. Having built for an army of the best players in the world, both in the southeast where we live and for big names like Eric Clapton, his guitars are now legendary. But why? Tone, that’s why. No maker reaches the highest levels without killer tone. The D-18 style Mahogany guitar offered at auction is his most popular seller. The spruce top gives its all. It is loud and clear as a bell.
Some of Henderson’s instruments are intricately decorated but are most respected for their volume, tone, and resonance. Blues guitarist John Cephas said that Wayne Henderson “is probably the most masterful guitar maker in this whole United States.” There is a long waiting list for Henderson’s guitars made up of the “famous (and not-so-famous)”.
Wayne’s guitar playing has also been enjoyed at Carnegie Hall, in three national tours of “Masters of the Steel-String Guitar”, and in seven nations in Asia. He is a recipient of a 1995 National Heritage Award presented by the National Endowment for the Arts. Wayne builds about 20 instruments a year, mostly guitars.
The fiddle that Jimmy Edmonds is crafting for the Masters Auction is made of Curly Maple wood from Southwest Virginia. The fiddle top is made from Red Spruce from White Top Mountain.
Jimmy learned much of his craft from his dad who was one of the most unique builders he had ever seen. His dad was always trying to build something different than anyone else. Jimmy worked with his dad to create some great instruments and continues to use many of his tools and ideas today. Jimmy started making fiddles in 2001 and guitars shortly afterwards. Being a fan of Martin guitars he basis his guitars around Martin but does not copy every detail. He wants his guitars to have their own look and he strives for that old Martin 30′s sound.
Jimmy, a child prodigy on the fiddle, has continued to grow in both playing and crafting fiddles. He now custom builds guitars for some of the top musicians in the industry. Jimmy’s shop Leaf and String, LLC is located in downtown Galax, VA.
Gerald Anderson and Spencer Strickland are two friends who are master musicians and master craftsmen. Their HoustonFest Mandolin to be auctioned is an “A” style mandolin made with Grayson County Maple back, sides and neck. Ebony fingerboard, bridge and peghead and a Whitetop Mountain red spruce top. It is truly a remarkable looking and sounding instrument.
In learning the craft of luthering, Gerald apprenticed with Wayne Henderson and worked in his shop for 31 years. Spencer followed by apprenticing with Gerald in mandolin making through the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Since the apprenticeship, Anderson-Strickland Instruments have become greatly coveted by musicians throughout the region and the country.
Anderson-Strickland has also come to signify the name of the performing duo gaining popularity for its clear, searing instrumentation and soulful vocal harmonies. Much like Wayne, Gerald became known over the years both as a fine luthier and as a gifted musician. Gerald’s crowning achievement was winning the prestigious Guitar Contest at the 2003 Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention. Spencer’s playing developed quickly and in 2004 he became one of the youngest contestants ever to take home the coveted title of “Best All-Around Performer” at the Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention. He later won the mandolin contest at Merlefest.
Steve Huber is crafting a new banjo line the “Heritage Banjo” for HoustonFest 2012. A Huber banjo was the choice of Houston Caldwell for whom HoustonFest is named and dedicated.
Steve is the driving force as well as fearless leader of the Huber Banjo’s team. He has played the banjo since he was in his teens, and performed professionally for many years, both before and during his tenure at the Huber helm.
In addition to his skill and experience as a banjo player, Steve also has extensive training in mechanical engineering and a work history in the manufacturing of metal components before launching his company. He first stepped into the banjo business with the introduction of his Huber Vintage Flathead tone ring in 1998, following that a few years later with the introduction of the first Huber Banjos.
Steve oversees day-to-day operation of the company, both on the management side and in the shop where the banjos are built and assembled. He is also continually researching design, component and set up modifications that can enhance the quality and consistency of the many Huber products.
Steve searched deep into studying the older flathead banjos, especially those made prior to 1942, to develop an understanding of what made them so much richer and more responsive than newer instruments. His first quest was to find the alloy used for those tone rings, figuring that any new banjo that sought to deliver the “pre war flathead sound” would need a tone ring that was not only identical in specifications and dimensions, but also in alloy composition.
Once Huber was convinced that he could consistently turn out a pre war replica tone ring, his attentions turned to building banjos. In much the same manner as he had researched tone rings, he studied every aspect of these vintage flathead banjos to find out how either the component makeup, or the manner of assembly differed from current standards. The resulting banjo has been met with much acclaim.
For tickets & more information on HoustonFest 2012 and the Masters Auction go to www.HoustonFestGalax.com, e-mail: HoustonFest2011@yahoo.com, or call: 276-236-9908. Ticket outlets in the Galax area include all Grayson National Bank locations, Roy’s Diamond Center, Barr’s Fiddle Shop, Edmonds Leaf & String, and the Galax Visitor’s Center