Dave Hendershot started playing music in the 4th grade, but it took until his freshman year in high school for him to have the opportunity to join a band, where he started out just doing their sound and lights. He was allowed to go to rehearsal if he attended church on Sunday morning. He and his Mom sat in the front row and he “would pretend” he was paying attention. Then on the way home he would get dropped off at band practice where he would “dubiously get high and drink beer and stuff” with his friends in the garage.
When he moved to Jacksonville as a teenager in the 80’s, he met a fellow deadhead - a fan of the grateful dead - outside of a McDonald’s. Together they formed what would become the Glass Camels.
Initially, they formed Chocolate George and the Glass Camels, but after realizing that a couple of biker guys knew that Chocolate George was affiliated with the Angels they shortened to the Glass Camels, which is also the name of a song from an obscure Grateful Dead album.
It all started with the Dead Head night at Pier 7 and next thing Dave know’s they were being booked four to five nights a week. The Band has changed over the years, but currently features Hendershot, Ed Richardson on bass, Charlie Bell on keys, and Jared Bell on guitar.
Dave believes that the music content is what makes them able to keep going. While they play a few songs every show, the material feels new somehow, he says, “You take a fresh approach to how you look at it and let the music be the guide and try not to be so astringent in the way you play it”.
Dave told Folio the ugly side of his 2020 story so far, as he has become a survivor. Not only did he become temporarily paralysed from the shoulders down, he then had to endure the face off with possibly catching Covid-19 while battling for his life in the hospital. “I survived because I refused to believe that it was going to be forever,” he said.
Hendershot said how it all happened: “It was just a really strange thing. I woke up with really bad cramps and like spasms in my back. My wife could see my muscles jump around like an alien, you know what I mean. So we left for the emergency room, I had to kneel on the front seat and hold the roof, it was incredible.” However, when Hendershot got to the Emergency Room, he was forced into an MRI room--when he said he couldn’t lay down flat, the nurses didn’t cooperate. “I got in there; I started feeling this burning in my chest, in my shoulders like fire burning.. I can’t feel my toes and I am arguing with myself, you can feel your toes? No, I can’t feel my toes.”
“The lady turns off the machine, she walks over to the MRI and says Mr. Hendershott, I need you to man up. I laid there and cried for another 45 minutes--when they took me out I was paralyzed from my shoulders down. Then they took me to a rehab hospital. It was six to seven hours a day of intense therapy and within a week they had me walking.”
“Being paralyzed as a musician is terrifying. I can’t even do my regular job as an insurance inspector with COVID-19.” While Hendershot tested negative, he continues to struggle with survivor’s guilt and extreme social anxiety. “I used to be somewhat of a tough guy, or at least I thought I was ... violence terrifies me right now. Protesting, I don’t want to be near all those people, not just because of COVID-19 but if something happens, and I am involved, I’d get hurt really bad or perhaps die. Honestly, I think I would rather die than be paralyzed again. Laying in that bed, not being able to move even though you are drugged up... I had a good attitude the whole time but on the inside I was f#@!ing frightened.”
Hendershot is left with no feeling in his fingertips or feet for life. But his passion for living and passion for playing music will not stop him. “Even though I am f#@!ed up for life with my hands and my feet and some other shit, I have been determined to do it, to get through it. I was f#@!ing angry when it first happened.” But that has changed for him now. Time is healing the wounds and being able to play music again, even without feeling in his fingers, is the best medicine.
One of his most favorite memories while playing music over all the years was being on the main stage at the Suwannee Music Festival with about 10,000 people there. “When you are playing really well and you’re walking around after and people are like ‘hey Dave,’ and they actually know your name. You feel like you are flying on top of the world, it feels so good, it’s also so humbling too when people come up and gush all over you about how you changed their life.” He laughed and said, “I can’t take on that kind of responsibility.” But he is sure glad to be able to bring people joy with his music, even through pain.