Mike Henry - Music Makers of Lancaster
Born and raised in New Brighton, PA, Mike is one of seven siblings. At home everyone had their own music. Mom and Dad had great tastes in music, listening to Broadway, classical, and pop country (Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, Hank Williams). Albums were stacked on the stereo and it seemed there was always music. Mike leaned towards commercial folk; his first album was probably Dylan. He admits to excessive listening to Dylan's "The Times They are a-Changin' " album. He started playing guitar while in high school. Although no one else in his immediate family played, Grandma (mom's side) played piano and Uncle Ray (also mom's side) played woodwinds and tuba.
Summer meant summer camp, where everyone had a guitar. Mike liked to perform there; he's always enjoyed entertaining, and has never had a problem singing in front of people.
Having no firm idea what to do after high school, he followed a brother to Slippery Rock State College. While there he developed a real lust for music. It's grown so that now "music is a natural part of me. I can't even grill a hot dog without taking my guitar out and picking".
Slippery Rock had a popular coffee house - the "Hitching Post". Folk circuit pros would come to play: Robin and Linda Williams, Peter Ostroushko, and Dakota Dave Hull performed. "They were super musicians and wonderful people" Mike says. This environment had a huge effect on Mike, and he thought "That's it! That's what I want to do".
Leaving Slippery Rock (he didn't graduate), Mike worked in a Pittsburgh area music store, performing when he could at night. He shared the stage as a warm up act for Vince Gill and John Hartford, and met Townes Van Zandt and Ramblin' Jack Elliott. It was at this time he really got into Blue Grass music and met Mac Martin and Bob Artis of the Dixie Travelers. Mac worked in a steel mill, and when he couldn't make a gig, the Travelers asked Mike to sit in. "I just played the chords and sang the words - they did everything else". He remembers playing bars until 2 am, then going to Perkins Pancake House for something to eat, getting home with $10 and thinking "I'm a Professional Musician!".
Mike married Lancaster native Cindy Fiorentino, a girl he'd met at Slippery Rock, and they eventually moved to Lancaster. He worked at Armstrong, completed college at F & M, and played various area venues. He often played with fiddle player (and Lancaster Symphony cellist) John Caldwell. When John couldn't play, Ken Gehret would fill in. Ken and Mike are still together.
Great Historical Bums.
Daughters Megan and Sarah would sometimes take Mike to school to perform for show and tell day. Mike asked a teacher if the kids might like a history lesson taught through songs. "Great. They'd love that!" she said. Well, a long time passed and he didn't hear any more about it. Then on the very day he was laid off from Armstrong, the teacher called. "How's that show coming along?". "Oh...we're about ready to do it!". He and Ken made up and performed as the "Great Historical Bums" with Mike's daughter Megan as narrator. He encouraged the kids to read about history and send him an essay on it. Doing so earned them lifetime memberships to the 'Bums'. Actress Jeanne Saulnier took over as narrator, and the 'Bums' performed in about 70 schools in eastern Pennsylvania. Ken even wrote out the music so that school bands could play along.
Mike hopes to make a CD of some of his songs. He also wants to perform more and maybe return the 'Bums' to the schools. He's also developed a real passion for reading and history, especially Lancaster County history. And don't ask him about the Civil War unless you have a lot of time to listen.