Mike Henderson, Chris Stapleton Co-Writer and the SteelDrivers Founder, Dead at 70

ABC's Coverage Of The 52nd Annual CMA Awards - Credit: Image Group LA/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images
ABC's Coverage Of The 52nd Annual CMA Awards - Credit: Image Group LA/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Mike Henderson, a founding member of the bluegrass band the SteelDrivers and a frequent co-writer of Chris Stapleton’s, died Friday. He was 70. Henderson’s former bandmates in the SteelDrivers confirmed his death in a Facebook post.

“All the SteelDrivers, past and present, are in shock today as we have lost our original architect,” they wrote.

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Henderson, a Missouri native, won a Grammy for Best Country Song for co-writing “Broken Halos” with Stapleton, his onetime bandmate in the SteelDrivers. In 2017, “Broken Halos” became Stapleton’s first Number One country hit, and the pair would again top the charts with their cowrite “Starting Over,” the title track to Stapleton’s 2020 album. They also wrote the Stapleton fan favorites “Death Row” and “Midnight Train to Memphis,” the latter first recorded by the SteelDrivers.

Henderson was a deft mandolin player and in 2006 he assembled the ferocious bluegrass band the SteelDrivers, featuring Stapleton on vocals, Tammy Rogers on fiddle, bassist Mike Fleming, and banjoist Richard Bailey. They released their self-titled debut in 2008 and were named 2009’s New Artist of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association. They followed up their debut with 2010’s Reckless, which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album. Even Adele was a fan and recorded the SteelDrivers’ “If It Hadn’t Been for Love,” another Henderson-Stapleton collab, for a deluxe edition of her album 21.

Stapleton left the band to focus on his solo career in 2010, and Henderson followed a year later. (The group continues today with Rogers and Fleming among its members.)

Prior to the SteelDrivers, Henderson released a string of solo albums, beginning with 1994’s Country Music Made Me Do It. In 2015, he released the LP If You Think It’s Hot in Here. Henderson continued to perform every Monday night at Nashville’s storied Bluebird Cafe.

Stapleton talked to Rolling Stone about Henderson’s influence on his songwriting in a 2017 interview and recalled how the friends had a standing writing appointment on Tuesday nights. During one session, they came up with “Broken Halos.” “I wrote that song with my dear friend Mike Henderson, with whom I probably wrote more songs than anyone who is a co-writer of mine,” Stapleton said. “I didn’t include any songs I’d written with him on [my debut] Traveller, so it was really important to me … to cut songs from some of the guys who helped me learn how to write songs — and Mike is one of those guys.”

This article has been updated to correct Mr. Henderson’s age.

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