Blues For Bugs: A Few Friends Remember the Dallas Guitar Hero

Bugs Henderson's influence reaches much further than his name. "He's the most famous unfamous person you'll ever meet," former bandmate and Dallas Guitar Show organizer Jimmy Wallace told me the morning of Friday, March 9, the day after Bugs died. But there's hardly a rock 'n' roll or blues guitar player alive who hasn't been influenced by Bugs Henderson.

I never knew him, but I only recently learned of his impact on my life. A few days after he died, my dad referenced a concert we went to years ago: Eric Clapton at Reunion Arena in 1998. It was my first major concert, and it turns out Bugs supplied the tickets. A friend of my dad taught Henderson's son at a Garland junior high. Bugs couldn't use them, so they eventually made their way to us.

From what people tell me, Bugs was like that — a really generous guy. But he was also a bit of a bad-ass. When I spoke to Jimmy Wallace a second time, he told me a story about a run-in Bugs had with one of his musical heroes, Chuck Berry. Bugs wanted Berry's autograph on a guitar he bought for his son, but Berry, flanked by a few groupies, decided not to oblige.

"We see each other out on the road all the time," Berry said. "I'll get you then." He was just showing off in front of the girls, one of whom talked Berry into signing the guitar. When he finally did, Bugs grabbed a T-shirt, wiped the signature from the guitar and walked away.

There are many stories just like that from musicians who've jammed with Bugs and his myriad fans. We asked a few such people to share some of their favorite memories.

Ted Nugent

"He's a quintessential American soulful guitar adventurer. He could do it all. I first met Bugs [when] he invited me to jam with him when we came through in 1975. We were playing Dallas, and I think we were opening up for Bad Company, who we absolutely mopped the stage with, and I was already getting a bit of a reputation myself as a guitar wank slammer.

"Bugs had gotten word to me that I should come to this club he was at and jam. So we did and we became friends. I probably jammed with him, I don't know, 30 or 40 times over the years. It was always a mutual-admiration musical adventure. He comes from [the] old school.

"I had heard about Bugs. People talked about him and told me to be prepared for a real guitar slammer.

"I think the most important thing, other than that we offended some really wonderful musical mountains that night, is that I was fascinated by his bare feet. I've seen him do it a number of times. He was barefoot that night, and I was already suspicious of that because I have always had disdain for hippies, so I thought maybe my new-found guitar friend might have some hippie undertones and I was going to try to fix that. But no, it was just a little cute quirk he had, playing barefoot.

"Here's the word that describes my relationship with Bugs: He was my blood brother. He was my musical Texas blood brother."

Jim Suhler

"Bugs was at the Dallas Guitar Show — it's an annual event, happens every April at Market Hall. There's all kinds of vendors and lots of ridiculously expensive guitars, $25,000 or more. Bugs saw one of those guitars and said, 'I wouldn't pay that much for a guitar. I wouldn't pay more for a guitar than I would for a car, and I've never spent more than $800 on a car.' He had a very self-deprecating sense of humor.

"I guess I first met him back in the late '70s. I was a lot younger than him — a generation younger. He was the first local guy that, when I first started playing guitar, I became aware of. He influenced me and was a guitar hero of mine. [He] did a live show in the parking lot of Sound Warehouse in, it must have been 1978. I told him, 'I'm trying to play guitar.' He was patient with me. I'm sure he'd met a lot of goofy teenage kids that played guitar, but he was nice and signed my album: 'To Jim, keep on pickin', Bugs.' I still have it today.

"I liked him because he wouldn't play the industry game of, back then, getting a skinny lead singer with a Rod Stewart haircut. He would do it his own way for better or worse and I always respected him and admired him for that. Probably one of the high points of my career as a songwriter was when he recorded a song of mine called "Starvation Box." That was an enormous honor for me. He was very much an influence in the way he lived his life."

Mike Rhyner

"My first exposure to Bugs was at [Dallas'] The Cellar in, I guess, 1969. He was in a group that played there just about every night called The Dream.

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22 comments
Bonster
Bonster

The love of my life and the father of my beautiful children first went to see Bugs on Greenville Avenue in some teeny dive near the now defunct "Filling Station" back in 1982. It was our 3rd date and when I absolutely knew that I was totally, solidly in love with him! The venue was packed, and Bugs just BLEW THE WALLS OFF!!! I found out in 2011 that my brother sat in on bass with Bugs a couple of times...WOW! What a Generous Musical Genius whose music allowed us to hear his heart and soul ~ RIP to a great Texas Legend . . . Thank you, Bugs, for all the gifts through all the years...

Claude Johnson
Claude Johnson

Bugs Henderson was a blues guitarist. He had a keen desire of learning guitar so at a very young age at six he learn playing guitar. HE was a well known blues guitar player. He was popular in Europe and from the 1970's was based in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, where he was known as a local blues guitar legend.

Aprylsmith22
Aprylsmith22

For those on here talking crap, it's very clear you did not know th man one bit but reguardless he had a family and that if anything else should be respected. Bugs was amazing on the guitar and stage. But I remember him as a dad at his daugters softball games and sons baseball games. So before you go talking crap think about who might be reading it. Rose I hope the family is staying strong and as you already know he is missed.

Jbricmont
Jbricmont

When people asked why I moved from Cal. to Texas, I would answer "So I could hear Bugs more often". There's a littleI grain of truth in there. I first saw Bugs' and heard his music in the late 90's when I had just gotten sober, and I largely attribute the fact I now am 15 years into a new life to Bugs' ability to speak to me through his music about his own struggles. I never missed a chance to hear him play Gruene Hall. Rest in Peace, Bugs. And thank you!

Tara Bender
Tara Bender

I met Bugs and his wife Patty through Rosie, and was priveliged to see him rock out at Poor Davids. I truly wish it had been more. Regret is such a bitter thing. He spoke through that guitar, and it really moved me. Much love Henderson family.

Brendan Keyes
Brendan Keyes

Hi Patty some people have no respect for Human life, never mind with these types of people. My Ma always told me be nice to everyone, Bugs was nice to everyone that's why we love the person as well as his music. This is for you insensible people, don't come on here and put down my friend have respect for a great man, his family and his fans. R. I . P Bugs we love you.

Justpattyanne
Justpattyanne

My Gosh, I wish I hadn't come back to read the comments.

Thanks to Daniel for taking the time to write the article - for contacting a few of the players out there that knew something of him. Thanks to the nice words from our friends out there.

I came to link this article on some of the fan pages (for those friends, family & fans who DID think that there was something to his playing - and to the human being), but I am reeling. This sits hard for a woman who's lost her husband.

Patty Anne Hendersonaka "Mrs. Bugs"

Dunkellll
Dunkellll

Another boring, cheesy Texan playing their white-boy blues. Good riddance.

Briankeithhurley
Briankeithhurley

Bugs played my wedding and taught me a lot about playing. My first band was in seventh grade was with his son playing drums. He was a legend and a great human being

Jbricmont
Jbricmont

Patty, fools gotta be fools. That one jerk has to use this opportunity to aggrandize his opinion of himself at another's expense only tarnishes HIS standing, not Bugs'.

Rose Henderson
Rose Henderson

There is always going to be someone that tries to take the attention that others recieve and stomp on it because they dont get what they want out of life. Dont ever listen to a weakling like that. Honestly, that dude has proba ly never even heard a song or note of dads. They just see an opportunity to pout and throw a fit, so they do. We know the truth Patty, and 99.99999 % of everyone else that ever heard him or knew him does too! Love you!

Natalie:)
Natalie:)

Anyone ever tell you dude that you fail at life? Well of course they have you go by DUNKELLLL!!! I mean really what kind of d-bag has a name like that? Do yourself and your fleas a favor and go die in a fire....

Dave Millsap
Dave Millsap

There are evil people in this word and I truly belive karma will serve well with this slug . RIP Bug Man.... real guitar players all across the world loved you and by god Im one of them Dave Millsap Ft Worth Texas

Rwchalker
Rwchalker

Give Ol Dunkellll a break... he is just a kid..... Hey Dunkellll going through life drunk and stupid is not productive. get off your moms couch in the basement.... take a shower for gods sake.... you smellll...dunkellll... it's obvious... go downtown and look for a job. Try to stay away from any news publication work... because you have no idea of what you comment.... I really tried to understand your point of view..... I just cannot get my head far enough up my own ass to understand you..... good luck

P.S. The bad breath you keep having is easily fixed.... Quit scratching your ass or quit biting your finger nails.... problem solved

Debbie
Debbie

Dunkelll you are probably some snot nose kid who has never heard the GREAT Bugs Henderson play......the man had a style that was hard to copy because he was REAL..... there was never anything "cheesy" about Bugs Henderson. My husband and I went to see him play in Houston when he opened for Johnny Winter and that was in the early 80's.... I was blown away by the talent this man had and have been a fan every since. If nothing else have some respect for his family, the loved him and are mourning him......so grow up and like another person said "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" so crawl back into your hole and shut up. You will never be on the same playing field as Mr Bugs Henderson.......never ever. To Patty Ann and Rose and all Bugs' family..... my heart goes out to you and I want you to know that I am very thankful to have met Bugs and talked to him a few times ....as a photographer I asked him one night to sign some photos I had taken of him and very kindly did so....earning even more of my respect. May he R I P and may you know the comfort of his love......

Rose Henderson
Rose Henderson

Im sorry your life is such bullshit that you have to put down those that actually make something of their life. Im sorry you only have the balls to talk crap about the dead and those you will never come in contact with. White boy blues??? Hmm...I wonder where that comment comes into play. Must have some anger towards those that succeed at "another mans" game. Blues isnt called Blacks. Its an emotion retard....one you clearly have alot of. Its universal, just as is love. You shouldnt be aloud to listen to music (especially my fathers) since you clearly cant appreciate its diversity and purpose. Opinions are one thing...but disrespect isnt neccisary. "GOOD RIDDANCE"

Brendan Keyes
Brendan Keyes

Hi Patty some people have no respect for Human life, never mind with these types of people. My Ma always told me be nice to everyone, Bugs was nice to everyone that's why we love the person as well as his music. This is for you insensible people, don't come on here and put down my friend have respect for a great man, his family and his fans. R. I . P Bugs we love you.

Georgektexas
Georgektexas

Did you ever hear the one about...if you can't say anything nice...don't say anything at all ?

Bugs was anything but boring...and WAY anything but cheesy...

Perhaps all your taste is in your mouth ? I'm just sayin'....

Wordb
Wordb

I didn't care for his playing either...well at least from what I heard later in his life. But perhaps you should have a bit more respect

 
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