Henderson, Tim (1940–2011)

By: Laurie E. Jasinski

Type: Biography

Published: September 12, 2014

Updated: October 29, 2015

Font size: A / A reset

Tim Henderson, singer–songwriter, was born on February 19, 1940, in Charleston, West Virginia. He was the son of Carmelite and Karl L. “Bud” Henderson. While raising an Appalachian Mountain family of seven children (including two that were adopted), Tim’s parents both worked to make ends meet. His father was employed by DuPont, and his mother was a teacher. The children were raised largely by their maternal grandparents, Jim and Macel Hagerty. His grandmother played the mountain dulcimer and sang old-time folksongs of Scotland and Wales. Young Tim Henderson played the piano when he was nine, and at age fourteen he received his first guitar. He graduated from Sacred Heart High School in Charleston in 1957. He was an Eagle Scout and a National Merit finalist.

He attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute for two years before going to West Virginia State College. In 1962 Henderson joined the United States Air Force, where he became a Russian linguist. After four years of service, he eventually returned to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from West Virginia State College in 1971. He had married his wife Marian in 1970; they had twins. During this time he worked a variety of jobs, including one summer in the coal mines—all experiences that would impact his songwriting.

In 1972 Henderson moved to Austin, Texas, where he attended graduate school at the University of Texas. He also taught technical German there. He worked as a technical writer as his day profession and in this capacity authored numerous manuals for such companies as Texas Instruments, AMD, and Motorola.

After his arrival in Austin and throughout the rest of his life, Henderson became known as one of the premier folk songwriters in the United States. He won the Kerrville Folk Festival’s New Folk Competition in 1977. Throughout his songwriting career he counted among his fans Tom Paxton, Townes Van Zandt, Peter Yarrow, and Allen Damron. Henderson’s folksongs evoked images “sprung from the soil of Texas,” according to Townes Van Zandt. His ballads included “The Gringo Pistolero” (co-written with Allen Damron), “Wind Don’t Blow in San Antone,” “Dust,” “Rusty Old Red River,” and “Maria Consuelo Arroyo,” a poignant ballad that was recorded by the Glaser Brothers and made the country charts. Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary) described Henderson’s songwriting as “a journey of laughter and whimsy, from wistful poetry to playful exaggeration, all the gift of Tim’s magical, masterful muse.” Henderson published more than 200 songs, and more than sixty of them have been recorded by other musicians. His longtime friend and musical colleague, Allen Damron, released Sweeping Up Dreams—an LP of mostly Henderson’s songs—in 1985.

Henderson issued several albums, available on Canadian River Music, including two live recordings of songs from 1977 through 1981 titled Ballads at Grins and Just for Grins, as well as a compilation called The Wind Knows My Name (1999). He played at numerous festivals and other events across the United States, including the Kerrville Folk Festival, Walnut Valley Festival in Kansas, the Mountain Stage in West Virginia, and the Woody Guthrie Memorial Festival in Tulsa, where he performed with Pete Seeger.

In 2010 Henderson released Winds of Texas on Berkalin Records. The CD included “Come to the Bower,” a stirring story song, co-written with Damron, about the battle of San Jacinto and a reference to the song that was reportedly played by several musicians as the Texas army engaged the Mexican troops. He was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Academy of Texas Music in 2011. Tim Henderson died of cancer on November 1, 2011, in Austin. He was seventy-one and was survived by his wife Marian, two children, and three grandchildren.

Austin American-Statesman, November 6, 2011. Berkalin Records: Tim Henderson (http://www.berkalinrecords.com/artists/#/tim-henderson/), accessed November 4, 2015. Jim Gramon, Legendary Texas Storytellers (Plano: Republic of Texas Press, 2003). Tim Henderson (http://www.myspace.com/timhendersoncoal), accessed November 9, 2011.


  • Music
  • Genres (Folk)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Laurie E. Jasinski, “Henderson, Tim,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 18, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/henderson-tim.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 12, 2014
October 29, 2015

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: