Wayne Henderson & the Origins of Our Sustenance Program

inTheir Needson March 26, 2020

Max (L) and Wayne Henderson (R)

Wayne Henderson is a famous luthier from southwest Virginia. I met him in 1981, I was 18 years old and had just moved South. Wayne worked for the US Post Service as a rural mail carrier. We became friends and he built me a guitar that I learned how to play on – I carried it to Kenya, toured the world with Guitar Gabriel with it. When Music Maker got started, and after I recorded a series of duets with Eric Clapton with the guitar, a generous donor bought it from me for $1,000 and donated $100,000 to Music Maker. I hated to part with that instrument, as my father who passed at 56 years old helped me get it. I heard his voice say to me, “Tim it is just some wood put together, you could help a lot of your folks with that money.” So that is what we did. Denise and I started the Sustenance Program at Music Maker with that donation. Since its inception, our Sustenance Program has provided over 12,000 grants to musicians in need.

Wayne had a book written about him, about building our friend Eric a guitar, and has since had a music school in Marion, VA named in his honor and done incredible charitable acts for his rural mountain community. I called him the other day, his long-time partner recently passed from a sudden heart attack, and he himself is scheduled to have his prostate removed due to cancer. His regular flow of visitors to his shop has declined. 40 years later, Wayne remains a friend, one of the first Southern musicians, to lend me a hand. Years and years ago, I recorded a record of him and his brother Max playing instrumental duets, mandolin and guitar.  It is one of the most beautiful records I have ever produced. For the last week their version of Wayfaring Stranger keeps going through my head. I have been poking around for this old cd, but just don’t seem to need it as it keeps rolling through my brain every morning, as clear as the day I first heard them play it.

My thoughts are with Wayne and our partner artists right now as we journey into uncertain times. At this very moment, our Sustenance Program is providing support to artists who are more in need than ever before. If you can, please donate today, to ensure that these important musicians remain safe.


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