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, Virginia on June 20, 2019. He was 65 years old.
Anderson was 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, Virginia, 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. “He was just a beautiful soul, an advocate for passing on the traditions of Appalachian craft and music. He loved to teach, he loved people, he was a mentor and he had to be one of the most patient people I have ever known.”
Schrenker said another of Anderson’s friends and instructor at the school, Marty Howard, described Gerald best when he said, “. . . Most use ‘Titebond’ to glue guitars together. If you want to glue people together, you’d use Gerald.”
We miss him immensely.