Townsend got to St. Louis just before the '20s began. Born in 1909 that makes him about 10 years old.
By the end of the decade he was cutting several sides of open-tuning slide guitar for the Columbia label. Two years later he made some similiar recordings for Paramount.
Around this time Townsend began playing the piano, by playing along with Roosevelt Sykes records.
Townsend was greatly influenced bij Roosevelt Sykes and Lonnie Johnson.
Within a few years he was able to perform concerts with pianists like Walter Davis and Henry Brown.
By the late '30s he made several tracks for Bluebird. Those were among the last recordings he made as a leader. The years in between Townsend, as a populair session musician, performed with many of the era' s most popular artists.
During the '40s and '50s Henry kept on playing and recording as a session musician. He never made another solo record.
This stayed this way untill the end of the sixties. In between he led some sessions, but he never got some real attention. Then he became wanted on the Blues and Folk festivals in America, this led to his comeback. He made a few albums for Adelphi, meanwhile playing thoughout America.
Later he switched from Adelphi to Nighthawk Records.
During the eighties he recorded a few albums, played a few shows a year.
Now retired, but still playing now and then, he is looked upon as one of the musicians that helped to make St. Louis one of the blues centers of America.