The Appalachian music community said a final goodbye to beloved musician and luthier Gerald Anderson Sunday, June 23, 2019.
Anderson died in his sleep at his home in Troutdale on June 20, 2019. He was 65 years old.
A public visitation service was held on the following Sunday at the Lincoln Theatre in Marion followed by a service. An open house was held at the Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts where friends “knocked the roof off of The Henderson in celebration of Gerald’s wonderful life,” according to former Crooked Road Director Jack Hinshelwood.
Anderson is well-known for his music and his hand-made guitars and mandolins. The Grayson County native took a shining to the guitar while he was still an anthropology student at Emory & Henry College. There, he heard Doc Watson perform on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” album.
“I loved it,” Anderson told the News & Messenger in a 2015 interview. “I wanted to play guitar like Doc Watson. I liked his style.”
After he graduated E&H in 1976, Anderson began hanging around Wayne Henderson’s shop in Rugby, where he swept the floors and absorbed all he could. Henderson helped Anderson explore his talents as a musician and later taught him to repair and then build guitars. Then, in 1980, Anderson built his first mandolin.
Anderson would become one of the best-known luthiers around and would travel the world serenading crowds with his Appalachian music. According to his obituary, Anderson crafted instruments for such well-known performers as Dolly Parton and Mumford & Sons. He made more than 25 recordings and collected more than 200 ribbons from various competitions.
Anderson would later pass on his knowledge and craft to several men; Spencer Strickland, Josh Reese, and Marty Howard who would join “The Master” Wayne Henderson and pass their knowledge, stories, and experiences on to those lucky enough to be accepted into a Henderson guitar building workshop, offered in a lutherie that bears the name: “The Gerald Anderson Lutherie”.
“He will be missed by a lot of people all over the world,” said Henderson Director Catherine Schrenker, her voice cracking as she spoke. “He was just a wonderful soul, an advocate for passing on the traditions of Appalachian craft and music. He was just a beautiful spirit. He loved to teach, he loved people, he was a mentor and he had to be one of the most patient people.”
Schrenker said Anderson was instrumental in getting the Henderson off the ground.
“I couldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for Gerald,” she said.
Schrenker said another of Anderson’s friends, Marty Howard, described him best when he said, “. . . Most use ‘Titebond’ to glue guitars together. If you want to glue people together, you’d use Gerald.”
Schrenker said community members were invited to bring their instruments and a covered dish to the open house, which was open throughout the evening.
“We had a huge jam and celebration and the school was bursting at its seams. I couldn’t think of anything better.”
Anderson frequently performed at the Lincoln where he often took the stage as part of the Virginia Luthiers, which features the four generations of luthiers, as well as other members. He made several appearances on Song of the Mountains and was a regularly featured musician during the Christmas Along the Crooked Road program.
We miss him immensely.