Born in Lakeland, Florida but raised in Los Angeles, she was the daughter of an African American clergyman and the granddaughter of a Blackfoot Native American. The blues musician, Guitar Nubbit, was her uncle. She initially worked as a civil servant but became interested in music after seeing a performance by Odetta at the famed LA folk venue the Ash Grove. She soon became a regular at Sunset Boulevard's jazz clubs and soon began to perform autoharp version of tunes from Alan Lomax's The Folk Songs of North America. Henderson got her break when she met Lord Buckley and joined him for a series of stage shows in Hollywood, including an appearance singing 'Rock of Ages' on one of Buckley's live albums.
Full-time music career
Having gained some recognition from her association with Buckley Henderson decided to devote her attentions to music full-time and moved to New York City in order to do so at a time when the city's Greenwich Village area was the centre of a boom in American folk music. Henderson quickly became a friend of leading scene figures such as Dave Van Ronk, Fred Neil, Paul Simon, becoming one of the first artists to cover Simon with her version of 'Leaves That are Green', and Bob Dylan, making a brief appearance in the latter's film Dont Look Back.
Move to the UK
Henderson's brother served in England with the United States Air Force and, following encouragement from him, she travelled to London, staying at a hotel in the Hampstead area. Henderson soon became a regular feature at The Troubadour, a centre of the folk revival, and from there won a residency on the BBC2 television programme Gadzooks! It's All Happening, appearing alongside such stars of the time as Tom Jones and Sandie Shaw. After meeting John Renbourn at The Roundhouse she offered the young guitarist the chance to accompany her and the duo recorded two albums together - There You Go (1965) and Watch the Stars (1967). After an encounter with the Dutch folk singer Cobi Schreijer at the same venue she also undertook a European tour encompassing thirteen countries.
Following Renbourn's departure to link up with Bert Jansch Henderson became the singer with the band Eclection, performing with them at the Isle of Wight Festival 1969, and, following their demise, launched Dorris Henderson's Eclection with her son Eric Jones as guitarist. After marrying Mac McGann, formerly of the Levee Breakers, Henderson settled in Twickenham and largely retired from music, bar some jingle work and a few appearance with Bob Kerr.
Following a rerelease of There You Go in 1999 Henderson returned to music on a more regular basis, culminating in the 2003 album Here I Go Again, a work featuring Renbourn and a number of other former colleagues and described by Henderson as 'my musical autobiography'. Henderson died in 2005 after battling against cancer.
- There You Go Columbia SX 6001 1965
- Watch the Stars Fontana TL 5385 1966
- Rotterdam Blues SHR VR 108 (EP)
- "Dorris Henderson : Obituary". The Independent. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- "There You Go". John Renbourn. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
- "Dorris Henderson Obituary". Archived from the original on 2012-03-04. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
- "The Sound of the World". Charliegillett.com. 2005-03-04. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
- Pohle, Horst (1987) The Folk Record Source Book; 2nd ed.; p. 198
- Pohle, p. 198