The late Tim Henderson was one of America’s greatest folksong writers. He has been described by Darrell Harkins as “a poet who sees deep into the heart of Texas, then puts that vision into some of the best folk ballads I have ever heard.”
Tim was born in the coal country of West Virginia and raised in Nitro and Charleston, along with five brothers and a sister. Musically, his Grandma quilled the mountain dulcimer and sang songs that have been in those mountains since they left Scotland and Wales in the 1700s. His mother played classical piano. Tim played the piano from age 9. He was given his first guitar at age 14 by Robert Easley, the black janitor at his school. Imagine Tim's shock when he brought it home and his Grandpa grabbed it and played “Over the Waves”, the old circus song. Tim was singing “You Are My Sunshine” for crowds of strangers when he was two.
Tim tried to play nearly everything with strings, including a 19-string lute. He considered his playing adequate, but said that you must judge for yourself. In performing, he used a guitar that he bought from the designer in Spain in 1965. It is a gut string classical guitar with a flamenco neck. Tim said, “ I would sooner part with my right arm. As a vocalist, I can only tell you that I enunciate well and sing only marginally better than Willie Nelson, and maybe a little louder.” Tom Paxton called Tim “The bear who laughs…Loud.”
Tim performed at prestigious locales like The Kerrville Folk Festivals, Chamizal National Theatre, The Walnut Valley Festival in Kansas, The Woody Guthrie Memorial Festival in Tulsa, and on Mountain Stage in West Virginia. His ballads appeared in publications such as Sing Out Magazine, The Dry Crik Review in California, and Journal of South Texas.
When Tim and Pete Seeger performed together several years ago at the Woody Guthrie Memorial in Tulsa, Pete enthusiastically remarked about the spiritual evocation of Texas captured by Tim in his beautiful ballads.
Over 60 of Tim’s songs have been recorded by other artists, including Allen Damron, Toni Price, The Glaser Brothers, Geronimo Trevenio, Katie Lee and Anne Hills. His ballads have been performed from Carnegie Hall to coffeehouses, from nightclubs to festivals. The Texas Music Project released a Texas Music compilation CD which includes Toni Price’s recording of Tim’s “Rusty Old Red River”.
In 2010, Tim’s CD Winds of Texas was released on Berkalin Records.
In 2011, Tim was honored along with his good friend Freddy Powers with the Texas Music Awards Lifetime Achievement Award.
Tim continued performing venues across Texas shortly up until his passing in November 2011. He is dearly missed, but left a legacy of incredible songs which live on in the hearts and minds of many.
“I keep trying to think of a more purely representative American songwriter than Tim Henderson and, frankly I am stumped…There’s a bit of Robert Service in Tim, a dash of Louis L’Amour, and a double shot of Mark Twain and Bret Harte. Tim is my idea of an American songwriter.”
– TOM PAXTON
“His songs are soulful and solid, sprung from the soil of Texas. Sometimes witty, always wise. Never showy or shallow. His music has always impressed me as beautifully human.”
– the late TOWNES VAN ZANDT
“His ballads spring from a well that is equally deep—he deeply loves and understands the remarkable people who inhabit his songs.—a journey of laughter and whimsy—all the gift of Tim’s magical, masterful muse.”
– PETER YARROW