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Tom Henderson, WMNF bluegrass host, dies


Published:   |   Updated: February 27, 2014 at 05:22 PM

TAMPA — The former host of a popular bluegrass music show on Tampa community radio station WMNF, 88.5 FM died Tuesday night.

Tom Henderson, 75, who also operated a music store on Busch Boulevard for more than 25 years, apparently died from a heart ailment, said close family friend Cricket Larson, who co-hosted radio shows with Henderson.

“There is a big hole in my heart today because this is a great loss,” said Larson who organized a fundraising event in December for the ailing Henderson.

“He had a serious fall back in November at his home and that lead to cardiac issues and eventually heart surgery,” Larson said. “He never recovered and was in a rehabilitation facility when he stopped breathing last night.”

Henderson was a founding member of The Bluegrass Parlor Band and launched “This is Bluegrass” in 1971 on WMNF. It aired until this fall when Henderson retired.

His music store was known for its jam sessions featuring rising bluegrass performers.

Over the years he received numerous awards, including a “Living Legend” honor for his work to preserve early country and western music. He also was given a WMNF lifetime achievement award.

Musician Cory Walker, who played in the Bluegrass Parlor Band and is now touring with Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, called Henderson a “dear friend.”

“He knew a great deal about bluegrass music, the history, how it should be played,” he said. “Tom was passionate about helping kids and he did so by teaching kids to teach themselves. It’s hard to explain, really. Tom was awesome at what he did.”

WMNF’s Larson said the hearts of many at the radio station, in the Bay area and in the bluegrass community “are broken today.”

“We have lost a true living legend and champion for our beloved bluegrass music. There are empty shoes that no one else will ever be able to fill,” she said.

Henderson is survived by his wife, Chris; a daughter, Karmen; a son, Rick; four grandchildren and one great-grandson.

There will be a memorial service at 5 p.m. March 9, at Christ The Redeemer Lutheran Church, 304 Druid Hills Road, in Temple Terrace.

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