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"He Just Loved the Music"

Traditional Fiddler Red Henline

By Robert Spence

Franklin "Red" Henline in 1947. At age 24, he was regarded as a top fiddler around Buckhannon.
Red Henline in 1947

Some West Virginians believe that traditional fiddlers can make music sweet enough to charm the red from the apples or the green from the leaves. Such a fiddler was the late Earl Franklin "Red" Henline of Buckhannon. He was a man who loved humor and his family, but whose greatest skill was making fiddle music as smooth as the water flowing through the Buckhannon River.

"He just loved the music," says Charlotte Henline Reger, Red's daughter. "He learned from his grandfather and his father and other traditional fiddlers. Music seems to have been a pure gift with him, all his life."

Earl Henline was born in Buckhannon on March 21, 1923, the son of John Edward and Opal Edna Henline, and the grandson of traditional fiddler Floyd Henline. Theresa Derico Henline, Red's wife of nearly 57 years, says that music began flowing out of Red when he was still a very young boy.

"His mother told me that he used to take pots and pans out from the shelves in their kitchen and play on them like they were drums," Theresa says. Red soon learned to play a variety of instruments including guitar, mandolin, and fiddle. "One time, someone wanted to take Earl with them to a city where he could get formal training because they thought he was that good," Theresa says. "But his parents wouldn't let him go."

Charlotte adds, "That natural love of music remained his main characteristic. He would be sitting around the kitchen table after dinner chatting with us about the day's events, and he would begin beating out a rhythm with his hands."

You can read the rest of this article in the Spring 2001 issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.