Master craftsmen contribute to HoustonFest 2012

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Instrument makers will contribute original works to auction to benefit Galax music festival and the programs it supports

By April Wright, Reporter



Shortly before young banjo prodigy, solider and firefighter Houston Caldwell was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2010 at the age of 18, he had sent local music legend and luthier Wayne Henderson a handwritten letter, telling of his admiration and how much he wanted to own a Wayne Henderson guitar one day.
Caldwell requested a guitar similar to the plain mahogany Martin D-18.
Henderson, along with friends and local music legends Gerald Anderson, Spencer Strickland and Jimmy Edmonds, each will donate an instrument to the HoustonFest live auction in memory of Caldwell.
Steve Huber will craft a Heritage Banjo for HoustonFest. The Huber banjo was a choice of Caldwell.
The live auction will be held during the second annual HoustonFest on May 4-5 in Felts Park in Galax. Funds from the live auction will go toward a Houston Caldwell Music Scholarship, Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) youth program, the Galax Volunteer Fire Department and operating expenses for HoustonFest.
The auction will be conducted by Kenneth Farmer Jr., owner of Ken Farmer Auctions & Appraisals, and a guest appraiser for “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS.


Henderson, Anderson, Stickland and Edmonds had become musicians that Caldwell had looked up to over the years.
In fact, Caldwell’s letter to Henderson described how much he appreciated jamming with him.
“It was always my pleasure to get to pick with him,” said Henderson. “He was a masterful player, and if he was around, we always asked if he wanted to come up on stage and play a tune.”
Caldwell was different from other young musicians. Not only was he a great picker, but he was someone that everyone wanted to be around.
He was certainly a great musician, said Henderson, but a good attitude is key to making it in the music industry, or even in life.
“He could have been president if he wanted to,” said Henderson. “You couldn’t help but like him — he was friendly and always knew what to say. Not everyone has a knack for that.”
With a mind and spirit beyond his years, Caldwell had an old soul, said Henderson.
He had spent a lot of time in Henderson’s luthier shop in Grayson County. One of Henderson’s favorite memories is taking Caldwell for a ride in his 1957 Thunderbird, which Caldwell really got a kick out of, he said.
“He was always interested in everything, it seemed like. He wanted to learn about everything,” said Henderson. “When something tragic like that happens, I wish I could have been around him more. He was a young man that impressed me.”
Henderson said this gives him a chance to remember Caldwell and help out other young folks who have an interest in music.
“The JAM program is so important,” said Henderson, of the program that teaches youth how to play instruments. “I still remember how hard it was for me to learn when I was young.”
Henderson has helped out the JAM program and provides scholarships to young musicians during the annual Wayne Henderson Music Festival in Grayson County.
Anderson had worked alongside Henderson for years, learning how to craft instruments. For the auction, he will donate a mandolin.
“It’s important to honor his memory,” Anderson said of Caldwell. “As a musician, serviceman and fireman, he represented the whole community.”
Anderson will make a mandolin out of maple from Flat Ridge to create an instrument similar to a 1920s Gibson. Strickland, who has worked closely with Anderson over the years, will assist in making the instrument.
“Houston came to all the conventions, and over the years, I had noticed what a talented young man he was becoming,” said Anderson. “He was always so polite and talented.”
Edmonds said Caldwell always valued the opinions of fellow musicians.
Although the fiddle player and luthier spends most of his time making guitars and builds only a couple of fiddles a year, Edmonds will build a fiddle for the live auction.
Edmonds also learned from Henderson how to make instruments.
“Houston was always asking a lot of stuff: ‘What tune should I play and how should I play it?’” said Edmonds. “If he was around any event, he would let you know he was there, and he made you feel important.”
Caldwell worked hard but he had the natural ability that even allowed him to surpass the talents of some of his instructors, said Edmonds.
“He was just an all-around nice guy,” said Edmonds. “He had a general love for music and people, and he was interested in being the best he could be.”
When the community hosted a Jimmy Edmonds Homecoming event — when Edmonds returned to the Galax area after years of living and performing at Myrtle Beach, S.C. — Caldwell won the youth competition, taking home the prize of a banjo.
“I started playing music at 4 years old,” said Edmonds, who has served on the board of directors for the JAM program in Galax. “I had a lot of people to help me, and now I have the opportunity to help them.”
At the auction, bids will be taken from the audience, over the Internet and by phone.

HoustonFest 2012 headliners include Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, John Berry, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Sierra Hull & Hwy 111 and Blue Highway, along with dozens of other bluegrass and country musicians.
For more information, visit houstonfestgalax.com.
Local ticket outlets include all Grayson National Bank locations, Roy’s Diamond Center and Barr’s Fiddle Shop in downtown Galax.