by Rev. Keith A. Gordon
Born in California but raised in Tyler, Texas, the young Buddy Henderson first picked up a guitar at the age of six, and would fall in love with music. By the time he was a teen, Henderson was working in a record store and sneaking out of the house at night to catch live music in local clubs. He formed his first band, the Sensors, at the age of 16, and later partnered with his friend Ronnie Weiss in the band Mouse and the Traps. They scored a minor hit in 1966 with the song “Public Execution,” which would later be immortalized in Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets collection of garage-rock singles. It was while playing with Mouse and the Traps that Henderson picked up his nickname of “Bugs.”
By the end of the 1960s, Henderson was playing music full-time as the house guitarist at Robin Hood Studios in Tyler, performing on demos by country and rock acts. The blues had become his first love, however, and encouraged by his mentor – legendary blues guitarist Freddie King – Henderson moved to Dallas and formed the Bugs Henderson Group. The band would perform frequently at the notorious Dallas club The Cellar, and released their debut album At Last in 1978. Henderson would go on to release better than a dozen albums over the next three decades, his most recent being 2009′s Vienna Calling with his current band the Shuffle King.
Henderson’s enormous six-string talents, and his inspired musical mix of blues, rock, jazz, and funk soon vaulted him from club dates to high-profile gigs opening for acts like the Allman Brothers Band, Leon Russell, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Ted Nugent, among others. The guitarist made a conscious decision early in his career, however, to put family first, music second, and his career third, and he toured and recorded infrequently through the years. While remaining fairly obscure in the U.S. Henderson was nevertheless a popular festival draw overseas, and although never driven to pursue stardom, he was content to play the music he loved and spend time with his family.
Bugs’ enthusiasm for life, for his family, and for the blues was contagious. A class act all the way, Henderson’s philosophy of life is best summed up by a quote on his website: “I tell people all the time that I know you’re supposed to stop and smell the roses as you go through life, but in my case I stopped and moved into the garden.”