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2024 Festival Entertainment

Wayne Henderson

Wayne Henderson’s top-notch finger-picking is a source of great pleasure and pride to his friends, family and neighbors in Grayson County, Virginia. His guitar playing has also been enjoyed at Carnegie Hall, in three national tours of Masters of the Steel-String Guitar, and in seven nations in Asia.

In addition to his reputation as a guitarist, Henderson is a luthier of great renown. He is a recipient of a 1995 National Heritage Award presented by the National Endowment for the Arts. He produces about 20 instruments a year, mostly guitars; he is almost as well-known for the mandolins he has made. Good friend Doc Watson owned a Henderson mandolin. He said, “That Henderson mandolin is as good as any I’ve had my hands on. And that’s saying a lot, because I’ve picked up some good ones.”

Some of Henderson’s instruments are intricately decorated but are most respected for their volume, tone, and resonance. Blues guitarist John Cephas said that Wayne Henderson “is probably the most masterful guitar maker in this whole United States.” There is a waiting list for Henderson’s guitars made up of the famous (and not-so-famous).

Above and beyond his great talents as a musician and luthier, Wayne Henderson is known as a “friend to everyone” and shares his talents and knowledge unselfishly.

The Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition was established in 1995 to express appreciation for this living legend. A portion of the proceeds from the Festival are placed into a scholarship fund to aid local young musicians in continuing their educations. Through the 2022 festival, scholarships awarded totaled more than $420,000.

The Gibson Brothers

There’s a reason why Ricky Skaggs pulled Eric and Leigh Gibson off the stage at the Ryman two decades ago and offered to produce their debut record. The same thing that led David Ferguson and Grammy Award winning producer and Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach to co-write and produce their 14th album “Mockingbird” (2018) and release it on his own label Easy Eye Sound alongside cultural icons such as Hank Williams Jr. and Dr. John: the Gibson Brothers are the real deal.

They can pick. They can sing, and they can write a darn good country song. They’ve won about every bluegrass award you can name and released albums on almost every premier Americana label you can think of including Sugar Hill and Rounder, and, if that’s not enough, their songs have been recorded by bluegrass legends no less than Del McCoury. It’s a resume almost anybody in country music would be proud to have. But despite all of this, the Gibson Brothers are not yet household names. Their latest album, “Darkest Hour,” produced by dobro master Jerry Douglas might just change that.

Presley Barker

Presley Barker is a country singer/songwriter and guitarist from Wilkes County, North Carolina – located close to one of Barker’s guitar heroes, Doc Watson. First learning to play the guitar at the age of 7, Barker won the Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention guitar contest in the adult division when he was 10 and again at age 13; over the next few years, he won the West Virginia State Flatpicking Guitar competition and the Wayne Henderson Guitar competition.

Barker has performed at major festivals such as the National Folk Festival, the Richmond Folk Festival, the Montana Folk Festival, Lowell Folk Festival, Dollywood, Silver Dollar City, Ole Red, Song of the Mountains, Washington County Fair, and Merlefest. Additionally, Presley appeared on national television as a featured guest on Steve Harvey’s “Little Big Shots,” “The Today Show, and “American Idol.” Presley has also appeared at the legendary Grand Ole Opry as a guest of Ricky Skaggs in 2019, and has performed many times for NASCAR events. He has opened for and shared the stage with artists such as Clint Black, Billy Strings, Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, and Albert Lee.

You can follow Presley on his social media accounts @thepresleybarker

For booking: thepresleybarker@gmail.com

L.T. Smooth

Virtuoso slack key guitarist Leon Toomata, better known by his stage name L.T. Smooth, has overcome many obstacles on his journey to the concert stage. In his own words, “I was born and raised in Aotearoa, New Zealand. My story is long, but here is a short version. I have spent too many years of my life doing drugs and alcohol, and running from the law and the people that loved me the most. It’s been eighteen years sober now, and I would never change a thing. The music has been the change in my life. The lyrics I write and the music that I compose is about my journey through the struggles that I have conquered. My music is my tools I use to help, encourage, heal, and to mend what we go through in life. This is my story of FREEDOM on MY JOURNEY to make a CHANGE in life. 

He discovered music when he was a teen and taught himself how to play 19 different instruments. In 2007, he recorded an album and was nominated for 5 Grammys. Lt is building the Heart of Music Academy in Kona, which is a housing for students where he teaches music, life lessons, and skills. 

L.T. Smooth has released 4 albums, having sold over a million copies combined, and he has performed with Bono, Mary J. Blige, and other well-respected recording artists. LT is also an inspirational speaker and recently recorded a video about ʻOhana (family) for Sales Force, a worldwide company based in San Francisco. LT played and spoke at the last World Economic Development Conference in Stockholm, Sweden, in front of many world leaders. Despite his success, LT is one of the most humble, gentle, kind, and loving men you will meet. 

Kruger Brothers

Born and raised in Europe, brothers Jens and Uwe Kruger started singing and playing instruments at a very young age. Growing up in a family where music was an important part of life, they were exposed to a wide diversity of musical influences. The brothers were performing regularly by the time they were eleven and twelve years old, and they began their professional career in 1979. Jens’ and Uwe’s first public performances were as a duo, and in just a few years they were busking on the streets of cities throughout eastern and western Europe.

CBS Records contracted with Jens and Uwe when Jens was just seventeen years old, and shortly thereafter, the Krugers hosted a radio show on SRG SSR, the Swiss Public broadcast group. Several years later, the brothers teamed up with bass player Joel Landsberg, a native of New York City who also had a very extensive musical upbringing in classical and jazz music (studying with jazz great Milt Hinton), thus forming a trio that has been playing professionally together since 1995. Together, they established the incomparable sound that The Kruger Brothers are known for today. The trio moved to the United States in 2002 and is based in Wilkesboro, NC.

Since their formal introduction to American audiences in 1997, The Kruger Brothers’ remarkable discipline, creativity and their ability to infuse classical music into folk music has resulted in a unique sound that has made them a fixture within the world of acoustic music. The honesty of their writing has since become a hallmark of the trio’s work.

In their ever-expanding body of work – Jens Kruger (banjo and vocals), Uwe Kruger (guitar and lead vocals), and Joel Landsberg , (bass and vocals) – The Kruger Brothers personify the spirit of exploration and innovation that forms the core of the American musical tradition. Their original music is crafted around their discerning taste, and the result is unpretentious, cultivated, and delightfully fresh.