For nearly a century, North Carolina has produced some of the finest blues musicians ever to grace a street corner or record their haunting tales of sorrow for the world to hear. The Tar Heel state gave us several founding fathers of the genre, such as Fulton Allen, better known as Blind Boy Fuller, whose pioneering Piedmont blues styles shaped the style of generations of blues guitarists. Another legendary North Carolina bluesman, the Blind Rev. Gary Davis, taught his blues and what he called “the right way to play the guitar” to legions of eager students, from the aforementioned Fuller, to modern masters like Jorma Kaukonen (Hot Tuna/Jefferson Airplane).
Mention North Carolina and blues in the same sentence and folks versed in its rich history will no doubt steer the discussion to the two most famous women from North Carolina who delivered powerful country blues songs and performances throughout the 20th century, Etta Baker and Elizabeth Cotten.
Not all of the great bluesmen of North Carolina are household names in the globalized blues community. Some of the best blues performers to be found in the state are relatively unknown local legends playing in juke joints, on street corners or in taverns in small towns scattered across the state. One of those lesser-known but powerful blues guitarist/singers is Charles E Bristol, who comes from Morganton, N.C., the hometown of Etta Baker.
Bristol’s technique follows the left-hand technique of the classic thumb and index finger picking style of the Rev. Gary Davis, and his high-pitched voice delivers the cry of a man who has lived the blues and has every right to sing them to you.
Charles is a longtime Lucille player and loves the tone and feel of his treasured Gibson. Says Bristol, “Ain’t no other guitar out there as good as a Gibson. It’s the best sounding, best feeling thing ever. You can’t play the blues as good on anything else.”
Charles turned 87 on Sept. 22, 2008. This octogenarian blues master performs several shows each month over the Internet in the 3D virtual world of Second Life, including performances on Gibson Island, where he was a featured performer for the island grand opening in July ’08.
Charles was in the market for a good resonator guitar to add to his arsenal, and decided on a Dobro Hound Dog round neck model for its durability, tone and factory-installed pickup system.
Gibson got word that Charles was looking for a Dobro and decided to honor him with an endorsement gift to celebrate his 87th birthday, during a concert he performed in Spring City, Tenn., at the Terrace View Marina Resort. In front of a packed house, Bristol accepted the present from fellow Second Life bluesman (and Epiphone endorsee) Von Johin, who brought the guitar over on behalf of Dobro and Gibson. Charles was thrilled to get the guitar and played it throughout the show.
Visit Gibson Island in Second Life for an updated schedule of performances and to get the latest dates added for Charles E Bristol. Visit Charles Bristol on MySpace.