Chris Bouchillon single-handedly created the talking blues form when he recorded "Talking Blues" for Columbia Records in Atlanta in 1926 (the actual 78 wasn't released until 1927), and while few recall his name today, the blues variant he started has been used to great effect by myriad performers since, including Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. Bouchillon was born Christopher Allen Bouchillon in Oconee, SC, although his exact birth date and year are unknown. He lived most of his life in nearby Greenville, where he was soon working with his brothers Charley and Uris, alongside their father, John, in the local iron foundry. The family was a musical one, and when the weekend rolled around, the brothers worked regularly as a string band, with Chris on mandolin, Charley on fiddle, and Uris on guitar.
They cut four sides as the Bouchillon Trio in 1925, and two more sides as the Greenville Trio a year later. It was at this 1926 session that Bouchillon recorded "Talking Blues." Supposedly a horrible singer, Bouchillon had a remarkable sense of conversational timing, and coupled with his subtle, dry wit, he learned to talk his way over blues progressions (which were usually played on guitar by his brother Uris), and tracks like "I've Been Married Three Times" are hilarious shaggy-dog stories told by a master comedian. He even kind of looked the part, with a pair of huge glasses straddling his face and a pipe reportedly always sticking out of the corner of his mouth.
Bouchillon began performing with his second wife, Ethel, around 1928, but following the Depression, he left music behind, eventually opening a dry cleaning shop in Greenville. He retired to Florida, where he died in the early '70s in a nursing home. The musical form he created continues to be used to great effect by countless performers, and while most of them undoubtedly don't know that it was a South Carolina foundry worker who invented the talking blues, his blueprint for it has proved remarkably durable. ~ Steve Leggett