SteelDrivers Founder + Chris Stapleton Collaborator Mike Henderson Dead at 70
Mike Henderson, who was best known for his founding role in the Grammy-winning bluegrass group the SteelDrivers, as well as his work with Chris Stapleton, has died.
The SteelDrivers confirmed Henderson's death in a post to social media on Friday evening (Sept. 22). He was 70 years old.
"I remember the call from Mike Henderson when he just casually asked if I wanted to get together at his place on a Sunday night around 8:00 and play a little bluegrass. Unbeknownst to me at the time, he had been writing for several years with a young man named Chris Stapleton and had the idea for a group that would maybe play once a month down at the Station Inn," the message states.
"What started as a casual jam changed the course of my life. I can’t begin to explain and share all the craziness and great times we all had together but I will say as I always have, it was all Hendo’s fault! So all the SteelDrivers, past and present, are in shock today as we have lost our original architect…..we send our heartfelt condolences to Janet, Lauren, and Shannon.
"Hendo, we will see you again where rainbows never die," the post concludes, adding a heart emoji.
A native of Missouri, Henderson moved to Nashville in the '80s to pursue his musical ambitions, landing a job as a staff songwriter for EMI. There, he delivered a string of songs other artists cut, including the Chicks, Trisha Yearwood, Gary Allan, Patty Loveless and more.
That drew the attention of RCA Nashville, which released Henderson's debut solo album, Country Music Made Me Do It, in 1994. Henderson released another album, Edge of Night, through his own Dead Reckoning label in 1996, followed by two albums with Mike Henderson and the Bluebloods.
In 2008, Henderson co-founded the SteelDrivers, which at that time included a mostly unknown Stapleton as their lead singer alongside Tammy Rogers on fiddle, bass player Mike Fleming and Richard Bailey on the banjo. The group released its self-titled debut in 2008, and the International Bluegrass Music Association named the SteelDrivers New Artist of the Year in 2009.
The group's sophomore album, Reckless in 2010, received a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album even as the band was beginning to undergo major changes. Stapleton left in 2010, and Henderson departed the SteelDrivers in 2011, but he and Stapleton continued to work together. The pair co-wrote Stapleton's "Broken Halos," which became his first No. 1 hit in 2017 and won a Grammy for Best Country Song.
Stapleton and Henderson also collaborated on "Starting Over," the title track from Stapleton's fourth solo album in 2020, as well as numerous other songs over the years.
Henderson also continued to work in Nashville's live music scene, most recently playing a weekly gig on Monday nights at the world-famous Bluebird Cafe. His final performance at the venue took place the Monday before he died, according to American Songwriter.
Henderson's cause of death has not been released publicly. No funeral plans have been announced.