“Music seems to have been a pure gift with him all his life,” says Charlotte Henline Reger of her father, the late Earl Franklin “Red” Henline. Long regarded as the finest fiddler in Upshur County, Henline is featured in the current issue of GOLDENSEAL magazine.
The story, “ ‘He Just Loved the Music’: Traditional Fiddler Red Henline,” which was written by Robert Spence, depicts a man with a lively sense of humor who loved his family and basketball, but whose greatest skill was “making fiddle music as smooth as the water flowing through the Buckhannon River.”
The grandson of traditional musician Floyd Henline, Red got his first fiddle as a teenager. Described as a self-taught musician with highly developed technical skills, he was as adept at waltzes as he was playing frolicking breakdowns.
In the article, Theresa Derico Henline, Red’s wife of nearly 57 years, recalls meeting him at the Buckhannon garment factory where they both worked at the start of World War II.
“He already had the reputation as the best fiddler in Upshur County and around, and I had watched him play at several dances, so I was impressed with him,” she recalls.
Though he never made his living as a musician, Henline appeared on local radio and television with many of the area’s best-known musicians, including Little John Graham and Cherokee Sue. Always well-dressed, well-rehearsed and professional, he had a reputation as a fierce, if somewhat reluctant, competitor at fiddling contests. Among his trophies were a number of first-place ribbons from the fiddle contest held at the West Virginia Strawberry Festival in Buckhannon. Red Henline passed away in 1999 at age 76.
In a related article, “Remembering Red,” fiddler John Gallagher recalls Henline’s last public appearance—an October 1999 visit to the annual Fiddlers Reunion at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins.
This issue of the magazine also includes several articles about quilting in West Virginia, a story about the now-closed Doll’s Honeymooners Gifts roadside souvenir stand in Mineral County and expanded coverage of the upcoming 25th annual Vandalia Gathering folklife festival.
GOLDENSEAL is West Virginia’s magazine of traditional life and is a quarterly publication of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. It is available for $4.95 at Wallace Bookstore and Foodland in Buckhannon or by calling (304) 558-0220, ext. 153.
Visit the Division’s website at www.wvculture.org. The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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