The Wayne Henderson Festival in Grayson County, Virginia featured a brilliant, blue sky and a full day of bluegrass, old time and Cajun music. The festival featured Lonesome River Band, Michael and David Doucet of BeauSoleil, Terry Baucom & the Dukes of Drive, and the Yates Family Band. Songwriters Jane Kramer and Dori Freeman kicked off the program with a set of their works.
Between Lonesome River Band and Terry Baucom & the Dukes of Drive, it was a banjo lover’s dream. Lonesome River Band’s set featured several songs from the new Mountain Home Music release, Bridging the Tradition, including Rose in Paradise and Real People. Lonesome River is fronted by Sammy Shelor, who was right at home on Virginia’s Crooked Road, vocalist and songwriter Brandon Rickman, Mike Hartgrove, Barry Reed and Randy Jones.
Terry Baucom and the Dukes of Drive are a tight quartet. The quartet of Baucom, Will Jones, Joey Lemons and Joe Hannabach rolled out some fantastic bluegrass. Their set featured popular tunes from Baucom’s catalog, such as The Rock.
Despite the banjo-centric bands, this festival is really about guitars — Henderson Guitars. Most the bands seemed to be sporting a new Henderson. Twenty people performed in the guitar competition in a bid to win one of two Henderson Guitars given away. Eric Harden of West Jefferson, NC picked up the coveted Henderson guitar when he nailed first place with some fine picking. Harden had stiff competition from Presley Barker, of North Wilkesboro, NC, who is just 11 years old and came in second place. Third place went to another young player, Parker Hastings, of Richmond, KY and fourth to Jessie Smith, of Wadsworth, OH. Rick Hall from Princeton, WV was fifth of the 20 competitors. More than one person commented at the tough job the judges had to pick a winner from the fine group of contestants.
As is the tradition, the day wrapped up with Wayne Henderson and Friends. The group began with Wayne’s frequent partners from The Virginia Luthiers; Gerald Anderson, Herb Key and Helen White.
After a few songs with the Luthiers, he began to rotate in the young talent! Guests included Jeb and Samantha from the Snyder Family Band That young man can really pick! Wayne was also joined by Danielle Yother, Shooter Brown, Lim Purcell and Jonah Horton and the band Shadowgrass, consisting of Presley Barker Kitty Ameral, Clay Russell, Luke Morris and Kyser George. Another young talent is Karis Howell of Sparta, N.C. who opened the festivities with the National Anthem. She has an incredible voice.
The festival benefits a scholarship fund supporting traditional music in communities in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina called JAM – Junior Appalachian Musicians. A second Henderson guitar was raffled off, raising a record $22,000 for the scholarship fund. Good for JAM for teaching the next generation of pickers not only the music but also about the heritage of the music.
Wayne really showcased the young talent in his set. As he introduced each young musician, he talked about how much he enjoys picking with the kids and trying to keep up with them. If these kids are the future of bluegrass music, the outlook is positive!
The location of this festival is fantastic. It’s near the Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia’s two highest mountains, Grayson Highlands State Park offers scenic views of alpine-like peaks more than 5,000 feet high. It’s also right on Virginia’s famed Crooked Road. The park is famed for the Wayne Henderson festival and the wild ponies living on its 4,500 acres. It’s a state park so there’s camping nearby. There’s even a dancing park ranger, Harvey Thompson. He works a while, dances a while and even sells ice cream in the crowd. He’s a delight and just one example of the great vibe of this festival. Put it on your schedule for next year or hit up the related festival at the park in the fall.