GERALD ANDERSON, Virginia Mountain

GERALD ANDERSON, Virginia Mountain

Southwest Virginia is one of the most beautiful places on earth if you are into that rugged, rural beauty. It is not a place for the faint of heart. Opportunities are often self-made and the result of much effort. Employment often involves driving for over an hour, unless you are fortunate enough to find work locally.

Thirty some years ago, Gerald Anderson graduated from college and started to look around. He was playing guitar and was interested in bluegrass and old-time music. He knew about Wayne Henderson, as everyone seemed to know about the guitar player/builder if they had been paying any amount of attention to music. Anderson worked with Henderson’s former wife during a summer job in college and found himself hanging out at Henderson’s shop, learning about guitars and bluegrass guitar. His interest in music piqued there and the obsession began. He didn’t have a job, so he just hung out at the shop.

At first, all he did was sweep the floors, but after a while, in September of 1976, Henderson put him to work doing repairs. About 1977, Anderson built his first guitar, a copy of a Martin D-28. He averaged about one guitar a year those first few years. He made his first mandolin in 1980. Now, Anderson mostly makes new instruments and does a few repairs on the side. Anderson also discovered that he, Henderson, and Carson Cooper, renowned banjo player in the area, were all related. It turns out that all of their great grandmothers were sisters. This speaks to the deep roots of the people who live this area. They all lived in Rugby, Va., with a shared ancestry.

When Anderson heard the album Will The Circle Be Unbroken, by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Doc Watson on it, he knew what he wanted to do on guitar. It was then Wayne Henderson taught Anderson how to really play guitar and make instruments. Anderson so followed Henderson’s lead that he also worked for the United States Postal Service just as Henderson had done. Anderson credits his time with Henderson well spent for teaching him all he knows about woodworking and instrument building and ninety percent of what he knows about guitar playing. Anderson recalls, “When I was in college, we played mostly chords. When I started learning from Wayne, he uses that pinch picking style with a thumb pick and two finger picks. I learned that style from him. And now that’s the only way I can play, with finger picks and thumb pick. I can’t operate with a flat pick.”

In 1980, he began making mandolins. Anderson recalls that there were not many instrument makers back then. “There was Wayne making guitars and Albert Hash up on the mountain.” Henderson was making some mandolins and he had a guiding hand in Anderson’s development as a mandolin builder. Anderson quickly realized that since Henderson was really known for making guitars and Albert Hash was making fiddles, there seemed to be an open niche for a mandolin maker, and Anderson decided to fill that niche. He relates the story of his first mandolin. “The first mandolin I built, I had no customer for it at all and wasn’t sure anybody would even want it. I had just barely gotten it done and probably the next day a guy comes into the shop. He had an Indian Rosewood D-28 and he was looking to trade this Martin guitar for the mandolin I built. Everyone loved Martin guitars. Those old Martins were what everybody wanted. I could turn something I made into a Martin guitar, so I thought that was great.” When he realized that he could trade a mandolin he made for his first Martin guitar, Anderson got more interested in making mandolins. He changed his emphasis to making mandolins. He didn’t really make that many at first, but increased his output over time while still doing mainly repair work.

In the spring of 2005, Anderson moved out of Henderson’s shop into his own shop in the current location in Troutdale, Va. At this point, he started making more guitars as well as the mandolins he had been building. He focuses on F-style mandolins, making A-styles as well, but the demand he sees is for his F-style. His efforts are to capture as much of that Lloyd Loar design of the Gibson F-models from 1922 to 1924 as possible. He has made some F-4 and A-4 oval-hole models as well. Lately, Anderson has even been using some Carpathian spruce for tops. This spruce comes from Romania, and Anderson feels that the sound is better than with the Red Spruce and Sitka tops that he had been using. So far, he has made 157 mandolins and 97 guitars. Before leaving Henderson’s shop, he had made only 12 guitars.

“I worked in Wayne’s shop for about 28 years and Jon Lohman of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities had an apprenticeship program and he asked me if I could do that. The person I ended up taking on was Spencer Strickland. He was a young fellow from Carroll County who was a great mandolin player and was real interested in making mandolins. His folks had gotten him a mandolin when he was about 12. I had built it for them. So I knew Spencer well and he did not want to quit making instruments. He wanted to do it full time and Wayne’s shop was just too small. So we turned my basement into a shop and Spencer helped me here for about five years. About two years ago, he started his own shop in Carroll County in Lambsburg. I kind of felt that is something I should do. Wayne taught me and I taught Spencer. And that’s the way those things go.”

While most of his guitars are based on a Martin design, he has found that a lot of folks like having one made from local woods. Walnut, maple, and spruce from this region, rich in hardwood forests, make a fine instrument. While these are not the traditional bluegrass guitar woods, these guitars are popular with folks who want an instrument made of local woods. On tone woods, Anderson has this to say, “Rosewood tends to be bassier sounding and mahogany is brighter. Walnut falls in between these two and the maple tends to be bright sounding. Curly maple makes a real beautiful guitar. That’s what I make my mandolins out of, and it is really good wood.”

Anderson was lucky enough to procure some local red spruce from White Top Mountain. It tends to be a little wider grained due to the altitude where it grows. He also gets red spruce from West Virginia and Maine.

Perhaps the most famous of the folks Anderson has built a guitar for is Mumford & Sons. When asked how this came about, he had this to say. “I got asked by the Virginia Tourism Corporation in Richmond to make a guitar for a band from England called Mumford & Sons. I didn’t know much about their music. So I looked them up on the Internet and they are a really popular band. I looked them up to see what kind of guitar he was playing on their videos. Most of the time he was playing a regular D-size Martin kind of a guitar, so I thought that was what I would build. The Tourism people were interested in showcasing Virginia, so I decided I would make it out of the local woods. Local maple and spruce from right around here. I made him the equivalent of a D-18 with some fancier ornamentation. I put his name, Marcus Mumford, in the fingerboard. The weekend that all of this was to happen was also the weekend of the Galax Fiddlers’ Convention. So I went down that Friday for their big show in Bristol and as the day was going on, I didn’t know about it, but they wanted another guitar for the banjo player because he plays some guitar in that band too. I didn’t have another guitar to take to him. There was a guitar at a place called Heartwood in Abington, which is an arts center that displays crafts and instruments made by Virginia makers. They had one of my guitars there. So Mumford & Sons bought that one, too.

Well, I met Marcus in Leah Ross’s office. She is in charge of the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, and I gave him that guitar. The tourism folks made a video of me and Spencer and Jimmy Edmonds, a local fiddle maker, working on that guitar and playing some music. They showed the video to Marcus and he got real emotional because he didn’t know that this whole deal was happening. He was getting emotional and the tears started welling up in his eyes. I handed him the guitar, and he did not take to bawlin’, but you could tell he was real emotional. Tears were coming out of his eyes for sure. He said he had never had anyone give him a gift like that before and he was real appreciative of it. He played it a little bit and I played it a little bit and Dorie Freeman, Scott’s daughter, sang a little bit, and he actually sang along with her, and that was pretty cool. He really liked the guitar. The next day, the tourism folks interviewed him and it’s on YouTube, Mumford and Son Guitar in the Making. The whole thing turned out really good, and he is no doubt the most famous person I ever made a guitar for.

“Most of the instruments I make are for local folks in Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Kentucky. I have sent some out to Washington and Oregon. In the past few years, we have traveled overseas to Scotland and England some and I have taken instruments and sold them over there. Spencer, Jimmy, and I went over and we took four instruments for customers.”

 Besides Spencer Strickland, who played number 53 on the road with Kenny & Amanda Smith, Scott Freeman with Skeeter and the Skidmarks plays Anderson mandolins. Spencer Strickland still works with Anderson and does some pearl and inlay work on Anderson’s instruments as well as the spraying of varnish finishes. “He has very good setup for that. After last year’s Reno Festival where we did a set with Jimmy Edmonds and Wayne Henderson, someone put it on the Internet and called it the Virginia Luthiers. So we have been playing some gigs under that name.” Everybody plays instruments that they have made except for Anderson when he switches over to the bass. He says, “I never made a bass because I never found a piece of wood big enough.”

When asked what other projects he might have up his sleeve, Anderson said, “A couple of months ago, the four of us made a video for the tourism folks at the Carter Fold. We did four songs. They asked each of us to do a song that was special to us. Wayne did ‘The Carter Family Medley’ because Wayne is a big fan of the Carter Family. Jimmy and Spencer each did a fiddle tune and I did a tune that Dale Morris and I had written together called ‘Home.’ The tourism folks are using the video for promotions.

“The director of The Crooked Road now is Jack Henshelwood. He occasionally asks me to go down to Charlotte to promote The Crooked Road. The Crooked Road is a tourism thing having to do with Route 58 that goes through several counties in Virginia where music pretty much thrives and has always been going on. The name describes this area that has eight major venues like the Carter Fold, the Rex Theater in Galax and that sort of thing. Then there are smaller venues where you can drive through the area and hear live music on any night of the week. It starts at Ferrum College and goes West to the Ralph Stanley Museum. Along that route there’s Ferrum College, the Floyd Country Store, the Rex Theater, the Carter Fold, the Country Cabin, and several more. The tourism people and the Crooked Road people hope to promote the state of Virginia by getting folks to visit the area. It has been a real successful thing. The Scotland tour we did was partially sponsored by The Crooked Road. They had a Crooked Road fiddlers’ convention in Abington and they made me one of the judges for that. They are just trying to promote the music and culture of Virginia.”

In a beautiful part of the world where things don’t always come easy, Gerald Anderson has made a living while making a life as an instrument builder and musician. He has made more than 25 recordings and has won over 200 ribbons from musical competitions. The most prestigious of these competitions is the ribbon for first place guitar at the 2003 Old Fiddlers’ Convention in Galax, Va.

Music Center to Present Mandolins of the Blue idge

Music Center to Present Mandolins of the Blue idge

In 2012, participants at the Old Fiddlers’ Convention in Galax broke the Guinness Book of World Records for the most mandolin players in one place – 389. Previously the record was held in Germany. The sheer popularity of the versatile instrument in both old-time and bluegrass music in the mountains continues to grow.

On Sunday, October 6, 2013, at 2pm the Blue Ridge Music Center will feature four outstanding mandolinists and one luthier in a performance/ “talk about” regarding the instrument’s construction and playing styles in the Blue Ridge. Performers include: Scott Freeman, David Long, Carl Jones and Gerald Anderson. Gerald Anderson began making mandolins over 30 years ago in Wayne Henderson’s guitar shop. Soon he developed an interest in making his own fine-quality instruments and opened up his own shop in Troutdale, Virginia.

Over the past 30 years, Anderson has made over 60 guitars and 140 mandolins. Gerald also plays old-time and bluegrass music with success and has won over 200 ribbons including 1st place guitar at the Old Fiddlers’ Convention in Galax in 2003.

Scott Freeman grew up in a musical family in Mount Airy, North Carolina. He and his three brothers all learned to play bluegrass and gospel. Scott plays guitar and fiddle too but he has always favored the mandolin. Early on David Grisman was one of his influences along with traditional players so Scott is as comfortable with swing or jazz as he is with bluegrass. He plays in numerous bands. Scott is also one of the most popular teachers in the region with over sixty students who are keeping Blue Ridge music alive.

Carl Jones is a Georgia-born mandolin player and multi-instrumentalist who lives in Galax, Virginia. He has played with James Bryan, Norman and Nancy Blake and performed or taught across North America and Europe. The Nashville Bluegrass Band, Kate Campbell and Rickie Simpkins with Tony Rice have recorded his original tunes and songs. Carl was also one of the main musicians featured in a recent article about old-time mandolin in Old-time Herald Magazine.

David Long is often considered a next generation player with strong roots in bluegrass. His exceptional skill on the mandolin has kept him very much in demand performing and recording. David has played with Karl Shiflett and his Big Country Show, in a duo with grammy-winning musician Mike Compton, and currently plays with singer Dori Freeman. He has recently moved to Woodlawn, Virginia from Nashville, Tennessee and we are glad to have him!

The Mandolins of the Blue Ridge performance-talk starts at 2pm on Sunday, October 6th, 2013. Reservations are highly recommended as seating is limited. Admission is free. To reserve your seats call (276) 236-5309(276) 236-5309 x112 and please show up by 1:45pm to keep your reservation. At 2pm any open seats are given to drop-in visitors.

The Fall Heritage Series takes place in the indoor theater at the Blue Ridge Music Center on Sunday afternoons through October 13th. Check the website for a complete schedule. Visitors can also enjoy free Mid Day Mountain Music 12-4pm daily and the free Roots of American Music museum open 10am-5pm daily through October 27th when the center closes for the season.

The Fall Heritage series is made possible with the support of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, National Park Service, and Eastern National. The Blue Ridge Music Center is located at milepost 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway only 10 miles from Galax, Virginia.

The Blue Ridge Music Center celebrates the music and musicians of the Blue Ridge. Established by the U.S. Congress in 1985, the site includes an outdoor amphitheater, indoor theater, visitor center, gift store and the Roots of American Music museum used to highlight an important strand of American musical culture, which is still alive and thriving in the region.

The site is operated through a partnership between the National Park Service and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. The center and museum are open 10:00 am-5:00 pm daily through October 27th. Admission to Visitor’s Center and the Roots of American Music museum is free. Mid-day Mountain Music is offered free every day in the Blue Ridge Music Center breezeway from 12-4 pm.

– See more at: http://theroanokestar.com/2013/09/22/music-center-to-present-mandolins-of-the-blue-ridge/#sthash.tdX32fWy.dpuf

HoustonFest ‘A Celebration of Song and Service’ Announces Master Luthiers Auction

EdmondsAndersonHenderson (1)HoustonFest 2012 will host a very special live auction featuring acoustical instruments handcrafted by master luthiers of the Appalachian Region. A Wayne Henderson guitar, Jimmy Edmonds fiddle, Anderson – Strickland mandolin, and a Steve Huber banjo will be offered to the highest bidder. These much sought after instruments compose the Masters Auction to be conducted live on the Main Stage of HoustonFest 2012. The auction will be conducted by Mr. Kenneth Farmer Jr. owner of Ken Farmer Auctions & Appraisals, LLC and a guest appraiser on PBS television Antiques Roadshow. Bids will be taken from the audience, over the internet, and by phone.

Anderson and Strickland

Gerald Anderson

Gerald Anderson began making mandolins twenty-nine years ago in Wayne Henderson’s shop and has since crafted more than 200 instruments. After he graduated from college, Anderson spent considerable time in the famous guitar makers busy workshop in Rugby, Virginia observing and playing music with Henderson. Soon he developed an interest in making his own fine-quality instruments and set out to reproduce the sounds of the classic Gibson-Loar mandolins of the 1920s. He shared a workspace with Henderson until recently when Anderson moved his tools and instruments into the bottom level of his home. Anderson now shares his expertise and workshop with apprentice Spencer Strickland. In the many years Anderson has been crafting mandolins he has also played old-time music with friends including Wayne Henderson and Butch Barker. Anderson has made more than twenty-five recordings and has more than 200 ribbons from musical competitions. The most prestigious being awarded for best guitar player at the 2003 Galax Fiddlers Convention. Gerald was among the region’s twelve musicians who participated in the Crooked Road Goes to Scotland Tour in May of 2006.

Gerald has teamed up with Spencer Strickland to form the duo performing act “Anderson-Strickland”. The two released a CD entitled “Headin South” and are currently working on their second CD project which will be an addition to the Crooked Road CD Series produced by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

Spencer Strickland

Spencer Strickland grew up in a family and community steeped in music. His mother and and his father played guitar in a bluegrass band that performed in churches and at community events. At age 10 Strickland began mandolin lessons . Strickland’s father immediately recognized his talent and traded a pocketknife for Spencer’s first instrument. Since then Spencer has gone on to win prestigious awards, such as the ribbon for best all-around performer at Galax Fiddlers Convention in 2004 and mandolin competition at Merlefest in April 2005, both festivals that he had attended as a child. In the fall of 2004 Strickland began an apprenticeship with Gerald Anderson, sponsored by the Virginia Folklife Program and in November 2004 he completed his first mandolin. The Virginia Folklife Program’s apprenticeship program awarded annually connects master craftspeople with talented young apprentices in order to preserve and enrich the traditional arts of the Commonwealth.

Spencer is currently part of the duo performing act “Anderson-Strickland. The two released a CD entitled “Headin South” and are currently working on their second CD which will be part of the Crooked Road CD Series produced by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

THE CROOKED ROAD: LUTHIERS AND FIDDLE MAKERS

Luthiers and fiddle makers are common along the Crooked Road.

One of the greatest teachers of the art was the late Albert Hash of Whitetop in Grayson County, who influenced some well-known luthiers and fiddle makers along the Crooked Road.

Albert Hash’s daughter, Audrey Hash Ham, carries on the tradition today, handing it handed down to another generation, as has been done for centuries.

Albert Hash. Image courtesy of Whitetop Mountain Band.Albert Hash. Image courtesy of Whitetop Mountain Band.

One of Hash’s apprentices was Wayne Henderson of Rugby. Henderson, a master guitar maker and award-winning picker, is known around the world for his guitars. Even Eric Clapton waited several years for one! You can read all about it in the book, “Clapton’s Guitar” by Allen St. John.

Gerald Anderson and Spencer Strickland, luthiers from The Crooked RoadGerald Anderson and Spencer Strickland, luthiers from Grayson County

Henderson taught Gerald Anderson how to make guitars and other fretted instruments, such as the mandolin. Anderson has built more than 100 mandolins over the past 40 years. Anderson’s mandolins are modeled after the classic instruments made by Gibson in the 1920s.

Today, one of Gerald Anderson’s apprentices is Spencer Strickland. Anderson and Strickland made the hand-crafted mandolins and guitars offered as prizes in The Crooked Road Sweepstakes.

Jack Branch of Bristol is a fiddle maker, another early apprentice of Albert Hash, who happened to be his brother-in-law, too. Branch also learned the techniques of making fine Italian-made instruments, even double basses, from Karl Becker, a famous luthier in New York.

Another one of Hash’s apprentices is Tom Barr of Galax, who owns and operates Barr’s Fiddle Shop in Galax, where many professional musicians hang out and jam as well as purchase their instuments and music supplies.

Jack Branch making a violinJack Branch of Bristol

Randall Eller of Chilhowie, studied with Hash. Today he and his sons make fiddles and mandolins at Cabin Woodworks. Eller plays fiddle and guitar with the old-time band, Cleghorn.

Other notable luthiers and fiddle makers along The Crooked Road include John Dancer of Damascus in Washington County; John Huron of Bristol; Mac Traynham of Willis in Floyd County; James Savage of Pipers Gap in Carroll County; Walter Messick with Cabin Creek Musical Instruments in Mouth of Wilson, Grayson County; and Wayne Powers and Bradley Hill of Haysi in Dickenson County.

For more information on how you, too, can purchase a beautiful handmade fiddle, guitar, mandolin or other stringed instument, please contact the folks at the Visitor Center in the region you plan to visit.

About Gerald

Gerald Anderson began making mandolins over thirty years ago. After graduating from college, Anderson spent time with the well-known guitar maker Wayne Henderson, from Rugby, VA, observing him craft his instruments and playing in his band.

Before long, Anderson developed an interest in making his own instruments, and set out to reproduce the sound of the classic Gibson Loar mandolins of the 1920’s. He shared workspace with Henderson until 2005, when he moved into his own shop in his hometown Troutdale, VA. Anderson has made over 80 guitars and over 150 mandolins.

During the many years Anderson has crafted instruments, he has also enjoyed playing bluegrass music. He has made more than 25 recordings and won over 200 ribbons in music competitions. One of his highlights was winning first place in guitar at the 2003 Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention in Galax, VA.

Gerald Anderson teamed up with Spencer Strickland to form Anderson-Strickland. With Anderson on guitar and Strickland on mandolin, the duo have released two albums as well as a live DVD. In 2005 and 2007, Anderson-Strickland performed at the National Folk Festival held in Richmond, VA. In 2006 they were part of the “Crooked Road” musical tour of Scotland. Anderson-Strickland also have performed in New York City and at FloydFest in Floyd, VA. In 2007, Anderson performed for Queen Elizabeth II when she visited America.

You can hear Anderson-Strickland performing their version of the popular fiddle tune “Cherokee Shuffle” as the theme song for the PBS television series “Song of the Mountains,” aired nationally every week.

Gerald Anderson

Gerald Anderson began making mandolins twenty-nine years ago in Wayne Henderson’s shop and has since crafted more than 200 instruments. After he graduated from college, Anderson spent considerable time in the famous guitar makers busy workshop in Rugby, Virginia observing and playing music with Henderson. Soon he developed an interest in making his own fine-quality instruments and set out to reproduce the sounds of the classic Gibson-Loar mandolins of the 1920s. He shared a workspace with Henderson until recently when Anderson moved his tools and instruments into the bottom level of his home. Anderson now shares his expertise and workshop with apprentice Spencer Strickland. In the many years Anderson has been crafting mandolins he has also played old-time music with friends including Wayne Henderson and Butch Barker. Anderson has made more than twenty-five recordings and has more than 200 ribbons from musical competitions. The most prestigious being awarded for best guitar player at the 2003 Galax Fiddlers Convention. Gerald was among the region’s twelve musicians who participated in the Crooked Road Goes to Scotland Tour in May of 2006.

Gerald has teamed up with Spencer Strickland to form the duo performing act “Anderson-Strickland”. The two released a CD entitled “Headin South” and are currently working on their second CD project which will be an addition to the Crooked Road CD Series produced by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

 

FEATURED VIRGINIA ARTIST: Gerald Anderson

He’s performed for royalty, made a rock star cry and is recognized around the world for his handcrafted musical instruments — not bad for a guy who discovered his true calling out of desperation.

“Most of my classes in college were in archaeology and anthropology, which had nothing to do with guitar making. When I was in school, I could barely play guitar. After I got out and started hanging out with Wayne, that’s when I really got into it.”

Gerald’s storied career in the music business began when he met Wayne Henderson — one of the most respected lutheirs (maker of stringed instruments) and guitar players in the world. Wayne, also a Grayson County native, was honored in 1995 with a National Heritage Award by the National Endowment for the Arts and famously made Eric Clapton wait years for one of his handmade guitars.

So, how did Gerald end up working side-by-side with a living legend in the music industry?

He couldn’t get a job after college!

Gerald tells VBVA he convinced Wayne to let him work at his shop to pay the bills.

What began as a part-time gig sweeping floors led to an apprenticeship and ultimately a life-long friendship and musical partnership.

“He taught me my livelihood. He taught me how to make instruments. He taught me how to play music. My whole music career was started because of his influence.”

home_wayne_gerald2

Wayne Henderson and Gerald Anderson – Courtesy: Ted Lehmann

Under Wayne’s guidance, Gerald designed and crafted his first guitar in 1977. His first mandolin was finished in 1981.

For more than three decades, the two craftsment created works of musical art in the same studio. In fact, it wasn’t until 2005 that Gerald moved his work materials out of Wayne’s shop and opened his own home-based studio with the help of apprentice, Spencer Strickland.

His location may have changed, but Gerald’s passion for making guitars and mandolins remains in tact.

“Last week, I sold my 158th mandolin and this week I’m finishing up my 105th guitar. Last year I made 17 guitars and 3 mandolins. My goal is to make two a month.”

Just 17 guitars and 3 mandolins in 365 days!

It’s obvious; Gerald pours a little piece of himself into each and every musical instrument he creates. It’s that attention to detail that has led to acclaim and countless friendships along the way.

“Most everybody who gets them really appreciates what they’re getting. Most of the people I get to know personally. They come to the shop and order them personally and you end up becoming friends with the person most of the time.”

Gerald says Doc Watson was a staple at he and Wayne’s workshop up until his death last year. Countless other bluegrass, country and rock musicians have also commissioned instruments and ultimately become friends.

But no one, perhaps, has been more impacted by Gerald’s talent and generosity than Marcus Mumford of “Mumford & Sons.”

Gerald was asked by the Virginia Tourism Corporation to surprise Marcus with a handmade guitar while he was in Bristol performing at the city’s annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion last year. According to Charlene Baker, Marketing Director for the Reunion, “It literally brought Marcus to tears!”

Making a rock star cry — just one of many unimaginable highlights in Gerald’s storied career.

“Back in 2007, we got to play for the Queen of England up in Richmond. That was really cool. I’ve got to tour over in Scotland and England. But as far as accomplishing things, the thing I am most proud of was winning the guitar competition at the Galax Fiddlers Convention in 2003. I was really proud of that.”

Despite his rocking resume, Gerald has no plans of slowing down!

He’s not only busy crafting musical instruments for others, but also making music of his own as a member of three groups — The Gerald Anderson BandAnderson-Strickland (a duo he formed with apprentice Spencer Strickland) and The Virginia Luthiers (alongside mentor Wayne Henderson, Strickland and Jimmy Edmonds).

Gerald’s music has taken him around the world, but this weekend he will be entertaining a hometown crowd as he, Wayne and several friends perform at the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion.

“We’ve been coming to that thing for years. Wayne and I played at the very first one. It’s a well-run festival and it keeps getting bigger and bigger. It’s really cool to go around and see all the different pickers, a lot of which I have never heard of before.”

More than 150 artists will be performing on 21 different stages around Bristol during the three-day Reunion.

The Virginia Luthiers are scheduled to perform Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Paramount Theater in Downtown Bristol.

You can get ticket and show information HERE and get a preview of what to expect by watching the video below.

According to Gerald, “It should be fun!”

Anderson & Strickland

Gerald Anderson and Spencer Strickland play with an exuberance and joy that is infectious. Whether they are jamming in the sawdust of their instrument-making shop, at a local performance in Grayson County, Virginia, on a festival stage, or in the recording studio, Gerald and Spencer play from the heart and never hold back.

Gerald grew up in Troutdale, Virginia, a small rural town in musically rich Grayson County. He didn’t play much as a boy, but started picking more regularly as a student at Emory and Henry College. In 1976, he received the opportunity of a lifetime, apprenticing in the shop of legendary guitar builder and player Wayne Henderson. Gerald worked in Wayne’s shop for 31 years. There he was able to hone the craft of guitar and mandolin making, as well as bear witness to a lot of great jokes and some fine guitar playing by Wayne and his constant flow of hot-picking companions. Much like Wayne, Gerald became known over the years both as a fine luthier and as a gifted player. His crowning achievement was winning the prestigious Guitar Contest at the 2003 Galax Fiddler’s Convention.

Spencer grew up in Lambsburg, Virginia, near the North Carolina border in Carroll County. Born into a musical family, he began taking mandolin lessons from local player and sound engineer Wesley Easter when he was about 10 years old. Spencer’s playing developed quickly, and in 2004 he became one of the youngest contestants ever to take home the coveted title of “Best All-Around Performer” at the Galax Fiddlers Convention, later winning the mandolin contest at Merlefest. Spencer has quickly become a mandolin player of choice in Southwest Virginia, and has appeared on numerous recordings, including the Buddy Pendleton CD in the Crooked Road Series.

Spencer apprenticed with Gerald in mandolin making through the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and the two quickly formed a strong working partnership and friendship. Since the apprenticeship, “Anderson and Strickland Stringed Instruments” have become greatly coveted by musicians throughout the region and the country. “Anderson-Strickland” has also come to signify the name of the performing duo, which has gained popularity for its clean, searing instrumentation and soulful vocal harmonies.

This recording presents Gerald and Spencer at their best. They are joined here by two members of the smoking-hot bluegrass band No Speed Limit; Jacob Eller (bass) and Josh Pickett (guitar), as well as the legendary Jimmy Edmonds (fiddle) and John Saroyan (banjo). Fittingly, these recordings were made just a few miles down the road from Lambsburg in the Cana, Virginia recording studio of Wesley Easter, the man who taught the young Spencer his first licks on the mandolin. Wesley even joins in on banjo. The result is Crooked Road Music at its finest, played by two good friends, having fun and laying it down.

1. Lorrie (R. Leigh)

During his college days at Emory and Henry, Gerald learned this tune from Richard Leigh, who wrote many number 1 songs for country singer Crystal Gayle.

Spencer–mandolin and harmony vocals
Gerald–guitar and lead vocals
Jacob–bass
Jimmy–fiddle

2. Everyday Miracle (P. Trianosky, Thornrose Music)

This song was written by good friend and mandolinist Paul Trianosky, who performs regularly with the Grayson Highlands String Band.

Spencer–mandolin, harmony and lead vocals
Gerald–guitar and lead vocals
Jacob–bass
Jimmy–fiddle

3. Harrisburg Drive (Spencer Strickland)

An original song of Spencer’s that was named while he was on his way to a show in Harrisburg, PA.

Spencer–mandolin
Josh–guitar
Jacob–bass
Jimmy–fiddle
Wesley–banjo

4. Been All Around This World (Traditional)

Gerald learned this song many years ago from the innovative old-time band Skeeter and the Skidmarks. Good friend John Saroyan from New York City joins in on old-time banjo.

Spencer–mandolin and harmony vocals
Gerald–guitar and lead vocals
Jacob–bass
John–banjo

5. Devil’s Dream (Traditional)

Gerald and Spencer decided to “swap” instruments on this popular old tune.

Spencer–guitar
Gerald–mandolin
Jacob–bass

6. In the Garden (C. Austin Miles, Hall-Mac Comp.)

A gospel favorite Gerald and Spencer both love to play and sing.

Spencer–mandolin, lead and harmony vocals
Gerald–guitar and lead vocals
Jacob–bass
Jimmy–fiddle

7. Tennessee Stud (J. Driftwood, Warden Music Co.)

Spencer and Gerald’s version of a song popularized by the great Doc Watson, who inspires both Spencer’s and Gerald’s playing.

Spencer–lead and harmony mandolin
Gerald–lead guitar
Jacob–bass
Jimmy–fiddle

8. Blackberry Blossom (traditional)

A traditional song Spencer and Gerald have played all their lives, and one of Spencer’s successful contest tunes.

Spencer–mandolin and rhythm guitar
Gerald–lead guitar
Jacob–bass
Jimmy–fiddle

9. River of Jordan (H. Houser)

The fine duet singing of the Looping Brothers from Germany was the inspiration for this gospel song.

Spencer–mandolin and harmony vocals
Gerald–guitar and lead vocals
Jacob–bass

10. Brilliancy (H. Foster)

This is a song Spencer learned from one of his mandolin heroes, Sam Bush. Spencer used this tune frequently as a competition tune and played it when he won the 2005 Merlefest Mandolin Championship.

Spencer-mandolin

11. Momma Don’t ‘Low (traditional)

This jammin’ tune was recorded live in Scotland during a 2006 Crooked Road tour.

Spencer–mandolin, lead and harmony vocals
Gerald–guitar and lead vocals
Jacob–bass

Gerald Anderson of Troutdale, VA

After hearing the accomplishments of some of the skilled caftsmen of the Crooked Road, we contacted Chuck Riedhammer, director of the Galax Department of Tourism, to ask if we could meet an area luthier in his workshop. The title of “luthier” has been expanded from referring to someone who made lutes to someone who makes any stringed instrument. Mr. Riedhammer referred us to Gerald Anderson of Troutdale. I asked if it would be appropriate to bring something for Mr. Anderson, maybe a homemade pie. He laughed and said, “I don’t know about appropriate, but it certainly would be appreciated.”

We left a message for Gerald on Friday, and on Saturday I met him after he finished playing in the Grayson County Old-Time and Bluegrass Music Convention (Elk Creek) competition. He graciously agreed to have us stop by Wednesday afternoon.

On Monday, we began our search for a baker. Conversations with another customer at Skeeter’s led to meeting another local merchant, Bill Kirk, of The Paper Clip (office supplies). He said there really wasn’t a bakery for pastries in town, but he referred us to Jerry Yonce, the chef at The Log House restaurant.

When I explained our upcoming meeting with the luthier, chef Yonce, seemed a bit amused by my request, but he suggested either a pecan pie or a Kentucky Derby pie. The description of the Kentucky Derby pie (chocolate chips, coconut, and the words “it’s like candy”) sealed the deal. We made plans to pick up the pie around 1:00 on Wednesday. (We then made plans to have lunch at The Log House on Wednesday.)

So, we called Gerald today to get directions to Gerald’s workshop, and, not to our surprise, they included the words “winding,” “uphill,” and, finally, “a very narrow, uphill, winding driveway” to the workshop.

We had lunch at the Log House, picked up the pie, and were off to Troutdale, about 22miles south of Wytheville on Route 16.

We were met at the door by Spencer Strickland, Gerald’s apprentice. He then showed us into the workshop. There was sawdust in the air–not merely the smell of sawdust, but sawdust. We stepped outdoors to present the pie to Gerald, who was both surprised and appreciative of the gift

Gerald Anderson is probably in his mid forties, but looks younger. Both men are two of the most respected luthiers in the region, but both are very humble. We were warmly welcomed to their “office.” One local resident and his friend were already talking with Gerald when we arrived.

As we were shown around the two work areas, I felt like Jimmy who would come over to Mr. Wizard’s workshop (1950’s TV) and say things like, “Gosh, Mr. Wizard, how did you do that–bend the sides?” Both craftsmen answered questions in detail, often reforming the question somewhat to provide a more complete answer to the questions that I asked and to those that I could have asked if I had more knowledge about the art of making guitars and mandolins.

We walked around the workshop, talking about the red spruce grown nearby that is used for the front of the guitar, the mahogany used on the curved sides and back of one guitar, the forms used for the mandolins, and the device (shown above) used to form the curve in the wood providing the sides of the guitar.
Gerald then showed us some of the finished products.

Finally, Gerald showed us a guitar, parts of which four outstanding luthiers (Wayne Henderson, Jimmy Edmonds, Gerald, and Spencer) had made. It is going to be raffled off to pay for their concert trip to Baltimore, the Gibson guitar factory near Allentown, PA, and New York City this fall. It had the words “Crooked Road” in an inlay in the neck of the guitar. We bought some tickets, but I hope someone who can already play well wins the drawing.

After about an hour of conversation and demonstration of the steps involved in creating an instrument, Gerald and Spencer played three songs. To my untrained ear, the sounds from both the guitar and mandolin were both richer and fuller than those of many other guitars.

We then headed for Independence, VA, to listen to a jam session on the lawn of the 100-year-old courthouse.

With every jam session we attend, we understand a little more about the role that these sessions play in the life of the community. The benefits of performing for an appreciative audience is a distant second to the joy of connecting with other people of similar interests. The interplay, both musical and conversational, is all-important.

We were fortunate to see and hear 11 musicians enjoying each other’s company. As a bonus, we heard the full complement of the instruments in a band playing old-time music: fiddle (2), banjo (2), guitar (5), string bass (1), and mandolin (1). (The mandolin player arrived late and occupied the empty chair in the photo.)

I have forgotten to mention in earlier entries a noticeable characteristic of the climate of the region. The effect of the sun can be intense, but when the sun goes behind the mountains, the temperature can drop by what seems to be 15=20 degrees. You go from sweltering to feeling cool/cold enough to need a sweatshirt within 20 minutes.