Tag Archives: Red Henry

Jessie and Lee Townsend Tribute CD now available

Listen and Watch song samples from the new “Tribute” CD below:  The newest video just added is, “Lost Tourist’s Letter Home.”

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Jessie and Lee’s CD is the newest professional recording for this sister/brother duet.

 

(To pre-order a CD, please send $15.00 to:  Jessie Townsend,
13501 SE 171st Lane  Hawthorne, FL 32640)
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Jessie, Red and Chris Henry and David McBrady in the studio

Jessie and Lee Townsend  recently went back into the studio to record six more songs to add to their CD Sampler.  The CD will now have 12 songs and be titled, “Tribute” as it will have songs from several of Florida’s best songwriters past and present including Will McLean, Steve Blackwell, Jim Ballew, Dale Crider, Don Grooms and Ann Thomas to name a few.

 

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Lee Townsend in the studio

Below you will find music videos of six of the songs included on the project followed by audio samples from all of the songs on the CD including “Lost Tourist’s Letter Home,” written by the late Ann Thomas about a tourist travelling by bus from Boston who was headed to Miami, but got off in the Florida scrub by mistake; “Crying Bird,” written by the late Will McLean about the potential demise of the Florida Limpkin; “Lonesome Wind Blues,” written by the late Wayne Raney and made popular by the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe; “When I Die” written by the late Jim Ballew; “Oh Kissimmee River” written by environmental troubadour Dale Crider from Windsor, FL and “Wild Birds” written by the late Don Grooms.

Jessie and Lee were joined in the studio for this CD by  Chris Henry (guitar, mandolin and vocal harmony), Red Henry (fiddle, mandolin and vocal harmony),  David McBrady (bass and vocal harmony), Jason Thomas (mandolin). Gabe Valla (rhythm guitar), Christian Ward (fiddle), Elisabeth Williamson (vocal harmony) and Lon Williamson (bass).  The lost tourist in the first video, “Lost Tourist’s Letter Home,” is portrayed by Harriett Meyer.

Lost Tourist’s Letter Home

Crying Bird

Lonesome Wind Blues

When I Die
 
 Wild Birds

Oh Kissimmee River

Song samples:
Jessie and Lee Townsend
Jessie and Lee Townsend (all photos by Donna Green-Townsend)

Kentucky Borderline (written by Rhonda Vincent and Terry Herd)  Performing on this fast-paced bluegrass tune that was the 2004 IBMA Song of the Year are Lee on banjo, Jessie singing the lead vocal, Jason Thomas on mandolin, Gabe Valla on rhythm guitar, Christian Ward on fiddle, David McBrady on bass and Elisabeth Williamson singing vocal harmony.

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Bury Me Beneath The Willow This traditional bluegrass song features Jessie singing the lead vocal, Lee on guitar and David McBrady on bass and vocal harmony.

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Nails In My Coffin (written by Gerald Irby) This song orginally written in 1946 features Lee on banjo and rhythm guitar, Jessie singing lead vocal, Elisabeth Williamson on vocal harmony, Christian Ward on fiddle and David McBrady on bass and vocal harmony.

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If I Needed You (written by Townes Van Zandt) features Jessie singing the lead vocal, Lee on guitar, Christian Ward on fiddle, David McBrady on bass and Elisabeth Williamson and David McBrady on vocal harmony.

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Lee and Jessie Townsend with David McBrady
Lee and Jessie Townsend with David McBrady performing Macclenny Farewell at the Will McLean Festival in March, 2016

Macclenny Farewell (written by Will McLean) This love song written by the late Father of Florida Folk features Jessie on the lead vocal, Lee on guitar and David McBrady on bass.

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dsc_0050The Line (written by Steve Blackwell) The line was written by the late Steve Blackwell from Punta Gorda who penned this beautiful song about someone reflecting on all of the family members who have gone on before.  This rendition of the song features Jessie singing the lead vocal, Lee on guitar and Lon Williamson on bass.

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Oh Kissimmee River (written by Dale Crider) Oh Kissimmee River written by environmental troubadour from Windsor, FL, Dale Crider, brings attention to the disastrous environmental effects of trying to straighten the Kissimmee River. This version features Jessie singing the lead vocal, Lee on banjo, Chris Henry on guitar, Red Henry on mandolin and David McBrady on bass.

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Withlacoochee River

When I Die (written by Jim Ballew) When I Die is one of the most beautiful songs ever written by the late Jim Ballew. It features Jessie on vocals, Lee on guitar, Chris Henry on mandolin, Red Henry on fiddle and David McBrady on bass.

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A Florida Limpkin

Cryin’ Bird (written by Will McLean) Cryin’ Bird by Will McLean brings attention to the potential extinction of Florida’s Limpkin because of the lack of food resources the Limpkin eats in the Wakulla River. Jessie sings vocal, Lee plays guitar, Chris Henry plays mandolin, Red Henry is on the fiddle and David McBrady is on bass.  Elisabeth Williamson adds vocal harmony.

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Lonesome Wind Blues (written by Wayne Raney) Lonesome Wind Blues is a very traditional bluegrass song. It was originally recorded in 1947 by Wayne Raney and later made famous by the Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe. In this version Jessie sings the vocals with harmony added by Chris and Red Henry.  Lee plays banjo, Chris Henry plays guitar, Red Henry is on the mandolin and David McBrady is on the bass.

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Wild Birds (written by Don Grooms) Wild Birds is a love song written by the late Don Grooms. Jessie sings the vocals, Lee is on guitar, Chris Henry is on mandolin, Red Henry is on fiddle and David McBrady is on bass.

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Lost Tourist’s Letter Home (written by Ann Thomas) In this tongue-in-cheek song the late Ann Thomas pokes fun at what a lost tourist would write home about if he or she got off a tour bus in the middle of Florida. Jessie sings vocals, Lee plays banjo, Chris Henry is on guitar, Red Henry is on mandolin and David McBrady is on bass

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Jessie and Lee Townsend  DSC_0057

Jessie and Lee have been performing  for several years.  Venues have included the Florida Folk Festival, the Will McLean Festival, the Alachua and Micanopy Festivals, bluegrass events in Waldo, the Christmas Candelight program at Disney World and a variety of other church services and community events.

 To pre-order a CD, please send $15.00 to:

Jessie Townsend
13501 SE 171st Lane
Hawthorne, FL 32640

To book Jessie and Lee for musical performances call 352-575-3042, or send an email to townsendjessie@gmail.com.

Lee and Jessie Townsend
Lee and Jessie Townsend

 

My Friendship With “The Black Hat Troubadour” Will McLean

 

Will Mclean who was the first folk artist inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1996
Will McLean, the first folk artist inducted into the Florida Artist Hall of Fame in 1996

By the time I met Will McLean he had already penned most of the hundreds of songs and poems he has become famous for.  He’d already performed at Carnegie Hall and made friends with the late Pete Seeger.  His glory days performing on the “Old Marble Stage” at the Florida Folk Festival were long since past.  The truth is, the day I met him I didn’t even really know him by name.  But I think therein lies the reason we became fast friends.  Will McLean was one of the most humble men I’d ever met.

It was in mid-November in 1985.  I was working in the WUFT-FM newsroom in Weimer Hall at the University of Florida when a tall man dressed all in black (that’s how I remember it) walked into my office and kindly, almost demurely, asked if he could post some fliers on the bulletin boards in the hallway to promote his concert that was to take place that following Sunday night November 17th in the Thomas Center in downtown Gainesville.  Just having someone come in and ask to post something was rare.  Thinking back on it, I’m surprised I didn’t just say yes or no.  I remember being intrigued by this man because of the soft-spoken way in which he asked me.  Maybe it was the way he was dressed and his stature that caused me to begin asking him questions, questions that today I’m a bit embarrassed that I asked, but so glad I did.

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Photo on Will McLean’s “Florida Sand” album

I remember questioning him about what kind of songs he’d written.  Instead of being surprised and offended that I didn’t know who he was he began to softly tell me some of the song titles and what they were about.  That’s where my friendship with Will McLean really began.  When he got to the song, “Hold Back the Waters,” my heart actually fluttered.  I had no idea how popular that song really was or the true history behind the song of the 1928 hurricane in Florida over Lake Okeechobee.  Geez, people in Florida had been singing this song like an anthem for more than 20 years.  But in 1985 I had only been living in Florida for a little more than two years and was just getting to know Florida history and area musicians.  But, I knew that song.  I fell in love with “Hold Back The Waters” when I was helping produce a national music series while out in the state of Kansas called, “The Walnut Valley Festival.”  The public radio station I was working for as news director, KHCC-FM, had produced 26 one-hour programs for national distribution.

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Album cover to record by Red and Murphy & Company I purchased at the Walnut Valley Festival in the early 1980s

My job was to interview all the musicians and produce features for the series.  It was my first real introduction to a genre of music you just don’t come across on the radio every day.  One of the groups performing in 1982 was Red and Murphy Henry, a bluegrass family band from Florida (now Virginia).  I can distinctly remember Murphy Henry introducing the song, Hold Back The Waters, saying it was about a hurricane.  Of all the songs I heard at the Walnut Valley Festival those two years in the early 1980s, this was the one song I sat down and wrote out the lyrics to and learned to sing. Listening back to the original tape I can hear Murphy Henry mentioning Will McLean’s name, but at the time I learned it I wasn’t as interested in the artist who wrote it as much as in the story of this devastating storm that pushed Lake Okeechobee’s waters over its banks and drowned between 3,000 to 4,000 people.

truck carrying victims of 1928 hurricaneThe 1928 storm was before television and the weather channel and before hurricanes even had names.  It intrigued me that the Seminoles living in Florida may have warned the storm was coming but people didn’t pay attention.  This storm is the reason there is now a dike all around Lake Okeechobee in South Florida.  There are many accounts from people recalling the storm describing how they were tied to trees by their families so they wouldn’t be swept away.  There are stories about the mass graves following the storm….some marked and some unmarked.  Yes, this was an intriguing song about history and my first introduction to what hurricanes could really do.

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Photo on Will McLean’s “Florida Sand” album

I loved “Hold Back The Waters.”  As soon as Will McLean mentioned it I remember blurting out, “I know that song.”  When I told him where I first heard it his eyes just lit up.  I wasn’t prepared for him to then ask, “Why don’t you come to my concert and sing it with me.”  He had just met me.  He didn’t know if I could sing or not.  I’m sure I thanked him kindly for asking, but he surely didn’t need me to come and sing.  It was his concert after all.  He insisted.

 

 

 

Will McLean waiting to performBefore he left the station I introduced him to our operations manager and our chief engineer and it was decided that WUFT would send its remote recording truck to the concert.  I remember sitting in a little room at the Thomas Center that night in November of 1985 practicing the song with Will.  I was so afraid I’d forget the words or forget how to play it on my guitar.  My fears were relieved when I saw Murphy Henry walk into the Thomas Center, the person I first heard sing the song out in Kansas.  It turned out that I didn’t have to worry about playing the guitar, I only had to sing the song with Will and Murphy.  My fears about forgetting the words disappeared.  Here is the introduction to the song that night in 1985

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and here’s the recording of Will McLean, Murphy Henry and me singing “Hold Back The Waters.”

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In 1985 I was engaged to be married to Lee Townsend from Cross Creek.  He was with me at the Thomas Center.  As it turns out, Lee knew Will for a different reason.  When he was working as a mechanic in Gainesville he often worked on Will’s old vehicles, doing his best to keep them running, many long after they should have been abandoned.  That night Will dedicated a poem to us. It was a poem so appropriate for a couple who lived in the woods in Cross Creek.

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Florida's Black Hat Troubadour I will only say that following that November concert, for whatever reason, that professional recording got stashed away on a shelf and misplaced for nearly 12 years….a whole different story in itself.  Eventually, it resurfaced at just the right time because the new program director at WUFT-FM, Bill Beckett, had an appreciation for what this recording meant to history.  Working together with the Executive Director of the Will McLean Foundation, Margaret Longhill, we turned the recording into the CD, “Will McLean and Friends, Live at the Thomas Center.”  I met Margaret Longhill the same week I met Will in 1985.  She truly understood how rare this professional recording of Will McLean was.  We’ve been friends now for nearly 32 years.

Will McLean standing beside the van he used to travel around the state writing songs about his Florida sand
Will McLean standing beside the van he used to travel around the state writing songs about his Florida sand

Because of the way Will McLean lived, he had very few possessions.  After his wife Alice died of cancer Will spent most of his last years travelling around in an old beat up van and hanging out at campgrounds where he could fish or just plug in his extension cord at the homes of various friends.  He pawned many of his guitars to obtain money to buy wine and  he gave away cassette tapes of his recordings to just about everyone he met.  I think he enjoyed revisiting the places around Florida where his grandpa had taken him as a boy.  Those trips were the inspiration for many of his songs and poems.

Not all of the stories about Will McLean are pretty, but he was a unique individual….a treasure.  About a month after the Thomas Center concert Will came to Cross Creek to help me celebrate my 28th birthday.  I remember having a nice little music jam on my screened porch over Cross Creek.  What I also remember is that Will chose to just sit back and listen to everyone else sing and play, not wanting to be in the spotlight.  As much as I wanted him to play for us, I can now look back and appreciate how he didn’t want to be center stage the way some musicians do.  I liked that quality in him.

The same thing happened on March 15, 1986 at my wedding reception in Cross Creek.  Someone told me Will McLean had just arrived and was looking for me.  He had a wedding present for my husband Lee and me.  It was a cassette full of recordings he had made around the campfires at the Florida Folk Festival and other places.  Not wanting to be the focus of my wedding reception he kindly gave us his “best wishes” and disappeared. After getting to know Will better over the coming months I invited him into the WUFT studios to do a long interview in 1987.  You can hear my first interview with Will in 1985 when I was just getting to know him and the second interview where I knew Will a little better by clicking here.  Let’s just say I’m really glad I have those recordings.  There are stories in those interviews that needed to be preserved forever.

Painting of Will McLean by Marianne Dinella
Painting of Will McLean by Marianne Dinella

Will died in 1990 from cancer.  Friends gathered for his memorial in the Thomas Center, the same venue where I sang with him less than five years before.  Both floors of the Thomas Center were packed.  Many of his friends performed Will’s songs and told stories of how they knew him including the late Gamble Rogers, Don Grooms, Bobby Hicks, Dale Crider, Seminole Chief James Billie, Jeanie Fitchen, Mary Ann Dinella, Doug Gauss and Wayne Martin.  The list is long.  There were tears and much laughter as well.  I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard.  He touched so many of us in so many ways.  This is the first time I’ve ever really written my thoughts about it.  Thank goodness someone actually video-taped the service.  It is a real treasure to see.

 

Will McLean holding a puppy on a chilly day Afterwards many of us went to Gore’s Landing by the Ocklawaha River to disperse Will’s ashes.  Some of those in attendance were Margaret Longhill, Don Grooms, Dale Crider and family, Donna Green-Townsend and family, Wayne Martin and Bobby Hicks to name a few.  Gore’s Landing was one of Will’s favorite places to camp.  I saw him there while my family was also camping not long before he got so sick.

 

 

Sign dedicated to Will McLean at Gore's Landing
Sign dedicated to Will McLean at Gore’s Landing

Margaret Longhill chose the Ocklawaha River because before he died, McLean had told her that he had hoped to light a small campfire one last time at Gore’s Landing, his favorite campsite.  In this brief recording, you will hear a small portion of that special ceremony at the river:

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the late Will McLean considered to be the "Father of Florida folk"
The late Will McLean considered to be the “Father of Florida folk”

In 1996 because of his artistic contributions Will became the first folk artist inducted into the prestigious Florida Artists Hall of Fame.  Friday, March 10th – Sunday, March 12th marks the 28th anniversary of the Will McLean Folk Festival.  

One of the highlights of the festival is the hour when the winners of the Will McLean Best New Florida Song Contest perform their winning songs.  Will always wanted to “Save Florida Through Music.”  It’s amazing how many songs there are now about his beloved “Florida Sand.”

 If you’ve never been to the Will McLean Folk Festival you really should check it out.  It’s truly a “songwriters festival.”  It’s held at the Sertoma Youth Ranch just 7 miles west of Dade City at the bottom of an orange grove.  It’s small in comparison to many music festivals, but that’s why it’s so special.  The performers and the people who attend are all in the same campground, playing music throughout the night.  

Jessie and Lee Townsend
Jessie and Lee Townsend

My children have grown up there.  In 2016 my son Lee and daughter Jessie Townsend performed on both Saturday and Sunday at the festival and honored many songwriters who have passed on in a special “Florida Set.”  Meanwhile, my daughter Ellie helped with publicity on the Will McLean Facebook page and my son-in-law Andrew Floyd coordinates all the vendors at the festival.  

As the late singer-songwriter Pete Seeger said, “Will McLean’s songs will be sung as long as there is a Florida.”  Rest in Peace Will McLean, my friend.

The Jessie and Lee Townsend Band’s Will McLean Festival Highlights

Will McLean logo 2016

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Jessie and Lee Townsend along with Andy Garfield and David McBrady performing on the Azalea Stage at the 2016 Will McLean Festival near Brooksville, FL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2016 Will McLean Music Festival was a tremendous success for the Jessie and Lee Townsend Band.  If you didn’t have an opportunity to go, you can watch a few of their performances on the Magnolia, Azalea and Cypress Stages below.  Thanks to Red Henry, Andy Garfield and David McBrady for lending their musical talents to the weekend.  Jessie and Lee couldn’t have done it without you.

The overall goal of their music sets was to honor many of the Florida songwriters who have passed on, but who have left a wonderful legacy with their music including Will McLean, Don Grooms, Jim Ballew, and Ann Thomas. They also wanted to include music from two of their favorite musicians, environmental troubadour Dale Crider and the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe.

 

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Dale Crider and Lee Townsend

In the 1970s  Dale Crider from Windsor was working as a wildlife biologist for the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission.  Through his job he saw firsthand the negative effects on the environment of the government’s decision to straighten the Kissimmee River in Florida and wrote a song about it.  Here is the Jessie and Lee Townsend Band’s rendition of Dale’s song, “Oh Kissimmee River.”

 

Will McLean waiting to perform
Will McLean waiting to perform

The late Will McLean (1919-1990) wrote hundreds of songs, stories and poems.  Many were about Florida’s critters and unique characters as well as Florida history.  He also wrote a love song called, “Macclenny Farewell.”  Here is Jessie and Lee’s version of that song accompanied by Andy Garfield on guitar and David McBrady on bass on the Azalea Stage at the festival.

 

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Jessie and Lee Townsend performing Crying Bird on the Magnolia Stage at the 2016 Will McLean Festival

Will McLean loved to write about Florida’s unique creatures….from sea turtles crawling up on the beach on Conch Island to sandhill cranes and panthers.  He also wrote a beautiful song about the Florida Limpkin called, “Cryin’ Bird.”  Here is Jessie and Lee’s interpretation of that song performed on the Magnolia Stage during the Hour of Power at the festival.

 

Jim Ballew
The late Jim Ballew performing at the Florida Folk Festival (photo courtesy of the FL State Archives)

The late Jim Ballew often played with the late Gamble Rogers, Paul Champion and Will McLean at festivals around the state.  He was not only a great musician, but a fine songwriter.  One of his most beautiful songs was called, “When I Die.”  Jessie and Lee Townsend recently learned this beautiful song and were accompanied by Red Henry on fiddle, Andy Garfield on guitar and David McBrady on bass on the Cypress Stage at the Will McLean Festival.

 

Frank and Ann Thomas
Frank and Ann Thomas performing at the Florida Folk Festival (photo courtesy of the State of FL archives)

Frank and Ann Thomas entertained Florida audiences for decades. Many of their songs capture Florida history.  The late Ann Thomas also had a comical side as in her song, “Lost Tourist’s Letter Home.”  Here is the Jessie and Lee Townsend Band’s rendition of her song performed on the Azalea Stage.

 

Don Grooms in an early performance photo
Don Grooms in an early performance photo

The late Don Grooms wrote some very funny songs….but he also had some very serious and poignant songs such as Vitachuko and Tsali about important native American leaders.  In “Wild Birds” he wrote about a difficult relationship where one of the persons just couldn’t stay in one place for long.  Here is the Jessie and Lee Townsend Band’s version of the song performed on the Cypress Stage.

 

 

Another highlight for Jessie and Lee at the 2016 Will McLean Music Festival was the opportunity to participate in a special tribute to longtime Will McLean Foundation Director, Margaret Longhill on Saturday night.  Jessie and Lee represented the young people who have been inspired by Longhill to perform Florida songs.  During the presentation they performed Will McLean’s love song, “Macclenny Farewell.”  They were joined on stage by bass player David McBrady.  The song is about 27 minutes into the presentation below:

 

 

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Jessie and Lee Townsend along with Andy Garfield, Red Henry and David McBrady jamming at the Will McLean Festival

Jessie and Lee love bluegrass music, especially Bill Monroe tunes.  Here are three versions of Bill Monroe’s Lonesome Wind Blues.  The first is from their set on the Cypress Stage with some great picking by Red Henry, Andy Garfield and David McBrady at the Cypress Stage.

 

Bill Monroe
The late Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe

The Jessie and Lee Townsend band also performed Bill Monroe’s song, “Lonesome Wind Blues” on the Azalea Stage.

 

And here’s the version of the song while jamming in the parking lot:

 

Cypress Stage 3
(From left to right) Andy Garfield, Lee Townsend, Jessie Townsend and Red Henry

Lee Townsend and Andy Garfield have been performing together since they played in a high school bluegrass band at P.K. Yonge High School in Gainesville. Since then they’ve performed at a wide variety of events and festivals in North Central Florida.  Here they are performing, ” Up 18 North,” written by the Kruger Brothers, on the Azalea Stage at the 2016 Will McLean Festival.

 

Jessie and Lee Townsend’s CD, “Tribute” Now Available

DSC_0081Jessie and Lee have recorded their first professional CD at Gatorbone Studios in Keystone Heights.  Click here to listen to song samples and to find out how to order one.

 

 

 

Chris and Red Henry

 

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Red and Chris Henry

Red Henry and his family are no strangers to the bluegrass and folk festival scene in Florida. The Henrys often play at the Gamble Rogers Folk Festival, which is held in the St. Augustine area to honor the late guitar finger-picking balladeer who graced stages across the country with his musical ability and legendary story-telling. Rogers was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in the late 1990s, not many years after he died trying to save a drowning man off Flagler Beach. Red Henry was one of Gamble’s close friends. Henry, a former Floridian, now lives in Winchester, Virginia.

 

Chris Henry and the Hardcore Grass Band
Chris Henry and the Hardcore Grass Band (photo by Ryan Long)

All the members of the Henry family are part of the country’s “bluegrass scene” and are all accomplished musicians. Red plays a variety of instruments including mandolin and fiddle. His wife Murphy plays guitar and banjo and is well-known for her “Murphy Method” for teaching how to play many bluegrass instruments. Daughter Casey plays banjo and son Chris plays guitar and mandolin and has been touring across the country with his own band called Chris Henry and the Hardcore Grass.

Red and Chris like to come to Florida festivals to play, especially the Will McLean Folk Festival and the Florida Folk Festival because of their close ties to not only Gamble Rogers, but also the “Father of Florida Folk,” Will McLean and environmental troubadour Dale Crider.  Donna Green-Townsend has this profile: Aired on WUFT on April 30, 2010 

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Here is Red and Chris Henry and their All Star Band performing Stay Out Of Your Way at the 2017 Will McLean Music Festival
 

 

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The cover of Chris Henry’s latest CD/DVD project

During the 2015 Florida Folk Festival in White Springs, Chris and Red Henry and their Allstar Band performed one of Chris’ new songs, “I’m Gonna Wait On Jesus” on the Mainstage.

 

 

Here’s a recording of a typical jam at a Henry campsite…this one recorded in 2012 at the Will McLean Festival:

 

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