Mike Henderson, Hit Country Songwriter and Founding Member of The SteelDrivers, Dead at 69

Mike Henderson, award-winning songwriter, musician, and founding member of celebrated bluegrass band The SteelDrivers, has died. He was 69.

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His death was confirmed on Friday evening (September 22) through an emotional post shared to The SteelDrivers’ official Facebook page.

“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,” the post reads. “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. When I arrived that Sunday evening, I met Chris, Mike Fleming, and I had known Richard Bailey since I was a teenager. 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.”

A Missouri native, Henderson kicked off his music career after moving to Nashville in the 1980s. Over the next few years, he spent stints in various bands before becoming a hired songwriter for EMI. During his time with the label, Henderson penned tracks for Trisha Yearwood, The Chicks, and Travis Tritt, among others.

In 1994, he released his first solo album Country Music Made Me Do It, and debuted on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart with lead single “Hillbilly Jitters.” He released three more albums, which leaned into a swampy country-blues sound before joining a new bluegrass outfit called The SteelDrivers. The band shared their first album in 2008, featuring vocals from their newly recruited lead singer and talented songwriter, Chris Stapleton.

The SteelDrivers. Photo via Getty Images

The SteelDrivers rode a wave of success over the following years, even earning a nomination for Best Bluegrass Album at the 2011 Grammy Awards for their celebrated record Reckless. Henderson parted ways with his bandmates later that year, but his career was far from over. He kept a close creative bond with Stapleton, co-writing the emotional CMA Award-winning hit “Broken Halos” together.

Henderson has continued to record and perform shows in recent years, making regular appearances at Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, including what would become his final set on Monday evening.

Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

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