‘Patience, persistence, perspective’: Horseshoe Johnny attempts a guitar handoff at JAS Labor Day
Ironworker spent nearly 100 hours building instrument for Sheryl Crow
There are fans at the Jazz Aspen-Snowmass Labor Day experience — front-row fiends for Gary Clark Jr., cowboy-booted acolytes of Eric Church, flocks of Parrotheads eager to see Jimmy Buffett.
And then there is Horseshoe Johnny, who loves Sheryl Crow so much that he spent nearly 100 hours building her a custom guitar out of horseshoes and braided horsehair strings.
Of all the 8,200 ticket-holders who passed through festival security Sept. 4, the ironworker from Littleton — full name Johnny Henning — was very likely the only one negotiating a hulking, handmade, heavy-metal six-string through the gates.
“One-hundred hours of nothing but joy and love. … She might as well have a piece of it,” Henning said from his front row, center-stage post at the venue where he sidled up well before Crow’s performance to stake his claim to a prime spot.
He aimed to offer her the instrument when she was onstage for the show; her acceptance of the gift would fulfill a dream years in the making, he said.
“Here I am” he said. “By God’s grace, it’ll come true.”
He started work on the piece two years ago, and Crow’s addition to the Labor Day Experience lineup made for the perfect opportunity to attempt a handoff. When Henning saw the announcement that she would appear in the 5 p.m. Saturday slot, he said — well, he expressed his excitement in terms that for decency’s sake cannot be published in print, but he was thrilled.
Consider it a labor of love from “one artist to another artist,” he said, to show his appreciation for Crow’s music and his near-lifelong adoration of the musician whose work spans the rock, pop, country, folk, jazz and blues genres.
He spent a decade and a half as a union ironworker in California not for money, really, but for the chance to be closer to venues where she might play.
“She is my Jenny,” Henning is convinced, whether Crow actually knows it. And he was a man on a mission at Saturday evening’s concert.
“I don’t take no for an answer,” Henning said. “Persistence is a gift.”
The tactic has worked in the past; he was able to get one guitar to Kenny Chesney a couple of years back. But unfortunately, persistence isn’t always a gift that keeps on giving.
Though the instrument garnered plenty of curious questions from fellow concertgoers and though he was about as close to the stage as any attendee could get, the handoff never happened.
“I’m not done yet,” Henning said after the concert while waiting to see if he might get a word in edgewise with anyone on Crow’s management crew about the instrument.
That’s where some other virtues come in: “Persistence, patience and perspective,” he said.
“Some of us have to be more patient than others — that’s the way the world is,” Henning said.
Back in 2013, while working on a proposed box set of archival recordings, singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge came across a group of songs that had been recorded in the late 1980s but never released.
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