They call him the Ramblin' Pie Man, and he lives up to the name.
These days, Dangerously Delicious Pies founder Rodney Henry spends more time on the road than he does at home in Baltimore. Almost nine years after he opened his first pie shop, in Patterson Park, Henry has finally reached the point where he doesn't have to be in the kitchen making pie crust every morning. He's becoming the go-to pie expert, popping up on TV with Bobby Flay and Paula Deen, and on the Food Network's "Chopped." Last month, Henry flew out to Los Angeles to film a TV show that might make him a star in his own right (he can't divulge details just yet).
Henry, 47, is also invading Washington, D.C. — in the past few months, he has opened Dangerously Delicious pie shops in Union Station, Chinatown and in the up-and-coming H Street corridor.
Of course, pie has always played second fiddle to Henry's one true love: music. He only became a pie man in the first place to pay for his touring, both as a solo act and as the front man of the Glenmont Popes. After years of grinding it out on the club circuit as a blues man, he's finally getting a foothold. Last year he recorded an EP with White Stripes producer Jim Diamond in Detroit, where he lived for a few months and still has an apartment and a pie shop. And he had such a great time at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin last year, he plans to return next month and host a Dangerously Delicious Pies showcase. This might just be his moment.
"I'm ready, man," Henry said. "I've always wanted to be an entertainer. Whatever I have to do. I'm like a Pie Johnny Cash."
How do you feel about being better known for pies than you are for music?
You know, I'm cool with it. Sometimes it bums me out a little bit when I think about it, because I do pie for music. My whole existence is to play music. I wouldn't be able to play if I didn't have pies.
Have you seen the movie "Waitress"?
I like that movie. It's pretty cool. At first I didn't think I was going to like it but it was pretty sweet. I liked the color of all the pies, and there's truth to that — how she would make a pie, dedicating it to people. ... As long as my pie's good and I don't have people going ... "He doesn't make good stuff." As long as I'm the rock 'n' roll pie man, that's cool.
What's in a Rodney Henry pie?
Good question, man. A lot of love, for sure. And probably it's very schizophrenic, I imagine.
If you've got a lot of love in your pie, it doesn't matter what you're going to put in there. If you don't think about it too much, it's going to be good.
Do you do other baking besides pies?
I used to, man. I got so obsessed with pies when I started doing it that I didn't really do anything else but pie. I can bake the hell out of a cake, I can make cupcakes, I can make cookies, I can make parfaits. I can make anything you want. I just don't do it as much as I used to. Even pies I don't make as much. I'm mostly a pie ambassador these days.
So you've gone from being a pie baker to a pie expert.
A pie expert? I'm still a baker. You always find somebody who's stuff is really good and then you're [angry] at yourself for not being on top of your game. ... All I care about is being able to do what I want to do and not sell out and be a punk. I want to have integrity. I don't want to just sell out down the road. It's enticing sometimes. I've had people offer money to buy my whole thing out, but I don't think that's what I want to do. Not yet. I've waited this long — 10 years now — I'm just going to keep doing it.
You had a lot of fun at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin last year.
I was having the best time. I went everywhere. I had a bag full of mini pies. I didn't have tickets for anything. I'd go to the back door and be like, "Hey man, you like pie?" and they'd be like, "Hell yeah I like pies," and I'd give them some pie and be in the show. Every single show. I saw probably 30 shows, easy.
You like Detroit?
It's a sweet town. Busted-up town. But it's a doggone music town. It's got maybe the best music in the country. It's in the soil. Because there's no buildings left. It's just rock and asphalt and asbestos. Crazy.
What's next for you?
Who knows, dude? I'm not getting any younger. By the time I'm 70, it's going to be like Johnny Lee Hooker. Finally people are going to recognize, "That crazy pie man is for real, man — he really is not going to stop. He's out of his mind." That's the plan.