Noted southwest Virginia luthier Gerald Anderson died suddenly yesterday at his home in Troutdale. He was 65 years of age.
His handmade Anderson mandolins were owned by top professional musicians well beyond the southeastern states. He also built fine flat top guitars, and worked on all sorts of stringed and fretted instruments.
In addition to building and repairing, Gerald was also a first rate musician, playing all of the bluegrass instruments, though would primarily be seen playing mandolin, guitar, or bass. He is featured on more than two dozen recordings, and has collected a stash of 200 ribbons at the various conventions and contests in his part of the country. His most prized trophy was for first place guitar at the Galax Old Fiddlers Convention in 2003.
Anderson is part of a long line of high quality luthiers in southwestern Virginia. He started out learning from the great Wayne Henderson, the most celebrated guitar and mandolin builder the region has ever known. Gerald both worked in Henderson’s shop and performed with him all over the country for many years. There he began building his Loar-inspired mandolins, and he remained in Wayne’s shop until setting up his own in 2005. Since then he has shared his knowledge and skills with his own apprentice, Spencer Strickland, who has embarked on a career as a builder himself.
Like his mentor, Gerald also worked as a mail carrier in Grayson County.
Gerald is remembered as someone who always had time for a friend, and there were hundreds of musicians who were proud to call him one. He would gladly leave an important job on his bench to take a look at someone else’s guitar or banjo if they stopped by, and was always ready to pick when the instruments came out.
The bluegrass and old time community in Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina feels a deep sense of loss.
Funeral services will be held this Sunday, June 23 at the Lincoln Theatre in Marion, VA, the home of the Song of the Mountains television show for whom Gerald and Spencer recorded the theme music. The service begins at 7:00 p.m. with the family receiving visitors from 4:00 p.m. till.
R.I.P., Gerald Anderson.