Wendy Garrison is an 8th generation Marylander. She is the middle child of three girls and grew up in a post-World War II subdivision where community life was centered around the local school. Wendy took piano lessons as a child, and her grandparents later gave the family a grand piano where she would practice her scales.
During her teens, Wendy was influenced by the folk movement and such artists as Peter, Paul and Mary. When she expressed an interest in learning to play guitar, her parents rented her a guitar, which she found very difficult to play. She later obtained an Espana brand guitar and took it on many Girl Scout trips and campouts. At this time, she mostly played traditional music and folk songs.
After attending Lake Forest College, located north of Chicago, Wendy moved to Mississippi in 1987. She quickly became interested in blues music and had a strong desire to learn to play blues guitar. After a visit to the Blues Archive on the University of Mississippi campus, Garrison befriended harmonica player and blues scholar Walter Liniger, who, at that time, was a researcher at the Blues Archive. For a $15 donation to the Blues Archive, Walter began to share various blues guitar styles with Wendy.
Wendy was most interested in slide guitar and began to concentrate on the work of Skip James, Charlie Patton, and Robert Johnson. At the time, Walter was apprenticing with James “Son” Thomas through a Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) grant, and Wendy was able to meet and play with Son Thomas at Walter’s home.
“When I think about it, I think the slide is very much like a voice,” said Garrison. “And since I don’t sing, that sound is halfway between an instrument and voice, and that was very appealing to me.”
Garrison began gigging around Oxford in 1996 and hasn’t stopped since. Her first band, High Water Mark, was a local favorite. She was a member of the all-girl group, Maybelle’s Lovers. For years, she played at church services and all-day singings, accompanying gospel hymns with her signature slide guitar style. In addition to regular gigs around the Oxford area, she has appeared at Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale and the Holly Springs “Blues in the Alley.” She was also a guest on the “Delta Sounds” radio show on KFFA in Helena, Arkansas.
In 2014, Wendy honed her signature slide guitar style during a year-long MAC apprenticeship with Abbeville, Mississippi blues artist Bill Howl-N-Madd Perry. During this time she performed with his band and with him individually. She learned about performance and blues culture, past and present, during visits to his family home in Abbeville and on the road to gigs. To learn more about Wendy’s experience as a participant in MAC’s Folk Arts Apprenticeship program, please visit her article on the Mississippi Folklife website.
Recently, Wendy has been taking her music experience one step further. She uses her unique style to design sense-of-place custom soundtracks for individuals, organizations and businesses.
Visit Wendy’s website at: www.msslideguitar.com.