Chris Bouchillon
'The Original
Talking Blues Man'

sound clips


C H R I S   B O U C H I L L O N (picture from cover of Old Homestead OHCS-181, mirror-imaged !!!)
source: cover of Old Homestead OHCS-181 [mirror-imaged by Stefan Wirz]  

This discography is a non-commercial labor-of-love and is in no way associated with any business firm.
All I know about the resp. artist's / label's musical output is shown on this page. To purchase out-of-print records I recommend an ebay, gemm or google search. And - sorry for that - I have not the time to answer any e-mails asking me about further information, let alone duplicating out-of-print recordings I happen to own.

Stefan Wirz

CHRISTOPHER BOUCHILLON 08/21/1893 - 09/1968
"The Talking Comedian of the South"

"When Chris Bouchillon says anything he does it in such a dry, humerous sort of way that you can't help but laugh.
Chris isn't averse to a bit of playing and singing, now and then, either. When he tunes up his voice and guitar, folks come from miles around to hear the melodies of this popular South Carolina minstrel.
In addition to being one of the foremost wits and singers of the South, Chris can tinker with an auto just as effectively as with a tune.
from Tony Russell: Blacks Whites and Blues; p. 18

Tony Russell: Blacks Whites and Blues.- Stein and Day, New York 1970, p. 18


  sound clipsLoFi
from album:
- Born In Hard Luck
[556 KB]

[676 KB]
click to enlarge !
"The Original Talking Blues
Man".- Old Homestead
Records OHCS-181
LoFi = streaming RealAudio 8 KHz 16 bit mono       HiFi = MP3 44,1 KHz 16 bit stereo (where available)

"... Now I ain't no sound engineer, no sound engineer's son,
but I can create a little sound clip 'til the sound engineer comes ..."
So if there's anything to improve, don't hesitate to let me know !


of release
titlelabel # / notes

10 inch 78 rpm

- She Doodle-Dooed (9234-A) #
- K.C. Railroad *

# rec. c. July 7, 1925 in Atlanta, GA; Charlie Bouchillon, fiddle; Uris Bouchillon, g; Chris Bouchillon, voc
* rec. c. July 1, 1925 in Atlanta, GA; George Walburn, fiddle; Emmett Hethcox, g

OKeh 45004

- Talking Blues (1143060-2)
- Hannah (1143061-1)

rec. November 4, 1926 in Atlanta, GA; Chris Bouchillon, voc, sp; poss. Charlie Bouchillon, fiddle; Uris Bouchillon, g
click to enlarge !

click to enlarge !
Columbia 15120-D

- The Medicine Show
- Born In Hard Luck

click to enlarge !
Columbia 15151-D

- My Fat Girl
- Let It Alone

Columbia 15178-D

- A Bull Fight In Mexico
- Chris Visits The Barber Shop

Columbia 15213-D

- You Look Awful Good To Me
- Waltz Me Around Willie

Columbia 15244-D

- New Talking Blues
- Old Blind Heck

Columbia 15262-D

- My Wife's Wedding
- I've Been Married Three Times

Columbia 15289-D

- Oyster Stew
- I Got Mine

Columbia 15317-D

- Adam And Eve part 1
- Adam And Eve part 2

Columbia 15345 D

- Speed Maniac
- Ambitious Father

Columbia 15373-D

- Girls Of To-Day
- Oh Miss Lizzie

click to enlarge !
Columbia 15508-D

LP / CD compilations
11987Chris Bouchillon
The Original Talking Blues Man

- Born In Hard Luck
- Talking Blues
- New Talkin Blues
- Hannah
- Old Blind Heck
- Let It Alone
- My Fat Girl
- Waltz Me Around Willie
- Ambitious Father

- You Look Awful Good To Me
- The Medicine Show
- I've Been Married Three Times
- My Wife's Wedding
- Adam And Eve - Part One
- Adam And Eve - Part Two
- Oyster Stew
- Oh Miss Lizzie
- Girls Of Today
click to enlarge !
Old Homestead OHCS-181
[cover painting wrong way round -
Bouchillon obviously wasn't left-
handed !]
liner notes
One of the most popular and enduring bits of country comedy is an odd little song-poem that begins, "If you want to get to Heaven, let me tell you how to do it." The lines, of course, are from a number usually called The Original Talking Blues or just Talking Blues, and though it has been popularized by several generations of performers from the 1920's to the present. few know much about its origins, or about the man who first popularized it. That man was a balding, bespectacled, pipe-smoking man from Greenville, South Carolina, named Christopher Allen Bouchillon, and this is the first ever reissue devoted to his remarkable work. Included are the four records that earned Bouchillon a place in country music history - "Talking Blues," and "Hannah, Won't You Open The Door" - as well as a generous sampling of some of the other 19 recordings that made him one of the most popular comedians on record in the 1920's.
Chris Bouchillon was born in the waning years of the 19th century in the remote, hilly county of Oconee in the extreme western tip of South Carolina. His father, John Bouchillon, was a noted banjo player who achieved even more fame after he moved his family to the nearby city of Greenville. There he settled them into a house just across the street from the Mountain City Iron Foundry, where he got work as a pattern maker. He soon got his young sons jobs there, as well, and on weekends taught them the rudiments of old-time string band music; soon John and three of his sons were taking most of the prizes at local fiddling contests. One of the sons was Charley, who played fiddle; a second was Uris, who played guitar; a third was Chris, who sang and played the mandolin. At one of these fiddling contests in 1925, the brothers met some of the musicians who had been recording in nearby Atlanta, and were encouraged to try their luck. In July they did, and cut four sides as "The Bouchillon Trio: Charley, Chris, and Uris." Only one selection, a dubious ditty about a saxophone player called "She Doodle Dooed," was issued, and though it was quite popular locally in Greenville, it apparently set no sales records nationally.
In April, 1926 the brothers returned to the Atlanta studios and recorded two songs under the name "The Greenville Trio," neither of which were ever to be issued. But to wrap up the session, they did two other numbers under Chris's name, "Talking Blues" and "Hannah." Chris did the vocalizing, Uris played guitar, and on "Hannah," Charley played the fiddle. The recording director in charge that day recalled in later years how the odd talking blues came about! "He came to see me down in Atlanta. I listened to him and thought he was pretty awful. I thought the singing was the worst thing I had heard, but I liked his voice. I liked the way he talked to me. I said: 'Can you play guitar while you're talking?' He said. 'Yes.' So I said, 'Let's do it, let's fool around with something like that.' He had a little thing called a 'blues thing' and he tried to sing it. I said, 'Don't sing it, just talk it. Tell them about the blues but don't sing it."
The record was issued in February 1927, and quickly became one of the year's biggest hits: it would eventually sell over 90,000 copies in the next three years. It defined, at least for the record industry, a new type of genre, and soon other companies were developing their own talking comedians, like Lonnie Glosson and Red Henderson. And in a month, Chris and his brothers were called back to the studios in Atlanta to cut a follow-up hit. This became "Born in Hard Luck," another piece destined to enter the standard repertoire of country comedy. ("I was born in the last month of the year, the last week in the month, the last day in the week, the last hour in the day .... etc.") This record too became a best seller, racking up sales of over 40,000 in an era when a Carter Family hit barely topped 100,000. Yet a third side, "My Pat Girl," also won a lot of popularity. On all of these - as, indeed, on all the later records - Uris Bouchillon provided the muchcopied guitar runs, while Chris handled the "vocals.'' During the next two years, Chris made regular trips to the Atlanta studios every six months, and saw his new records appear in the stores across the South.
In spite of this record success, Chris did not try to make it on stage or on records. Other performers from the Greenville area, such as gospel singers, The McCravy Brothers; instrumentalists, Homer Christopher and Rainey Van Wink; singers, Leo and Dewey Boswell, sought and maintained careers on radio or stage, but the Bouchillon Brothers were content to make an occasional guest shot on local radio, and ply their trade at fiddling contests. They continued to work at the iron foundry until the depression, then Chris and his brothers drifted into a variety of jobs. For a time they used their musical talent in working for an oil company, and even made instruments out of oil cans for advertising appearances. Chris was married twice, and his second wife, Ethel, recorded with him on several later sides. Uris, for his part, was acknowledged as the premier local guitarist, and in the late 1920's brought back the first steel guitar seen in Greenville.
In later years, Chris owned and operated a dry cleaning shop in Greenville, and dropped completely out of music, except for family gatherings. Friends say he never seemed to know just how popular his talking blues became, and that in later life he did not even own any of his older records. He moved to Florida in later life, and was living there when he died at a nursing home in West Palm Beach, in the early 1970's.
Chris's most famous piece, "Talking Blues," was like a rock thrown in a still pool - the ripples went on and on. In the late 1930's, Robert Lunn, an ex-vaudeville artist from Tennessee, popularized Chris's version of the song on WSM's "Grand Ole Opry." At about the same time, folksinger Woody Guthrie began using the piece, both in its original form and as a model for more topical pieces. In the 1950's, British skiffle singer, Lonnie Donnegan used the piece, and in the 1960's, Bob Dylan resurrected the form for numerous comic and protest numbers. Both Lunn and Guthrie are often mistakenly credited with "inventing" the form, usually by people who know nothing of Bouchillon, nor of the huge popular success of his 1926 record.
Since Bouchillon died uninterviewed by any historian, we don't know where he got the idea for the blues, or the text, or how much credence to put in the recording producer's story. Friends say Chris was a natural mimic, and could do a funny take-off on the black accents he heard around the foundry; and certainly, some of the stanzas in Chris's text can be traced in black folksong back to 1875 or so. In 1926, song hunter Ethel Park Richardson collected a text very similar to the one hear here by Chris from Dacula fiddler Gid Tanner, of the Skillet Lickers. Tanner called his version "Jest Talking," and Richardson printed it in a 1927 book called American Mountain Songs. Since she collected the song from Tanner after Chris made his recording - but before the record was issued - it is quite possible that Tanner got the piece from Chris. It's a problem too complicated to be unraveled on a liner note. Suffice it to say that Chris's 1926 text is the basis for nearly all the later "Talking Blues" forms, and a masterpiece of old-time southern humor.
Chris Bouchillon (the name is pronounced BUSH-ill-on) never quite duplicated the success of this first effort, but his repertoire is full of interesting bits of rustic humor that deserve our attention - bits that are reflected in this first retrospective of the man called "The Talking Comedian of the South."

Charles Wolfe 1986

219??Early Country Songs Vol. 1
recorded 1927-1929

Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers
- The Darktown Strutters Ball
- Drinker Down
Leake County Revelers
- Georgia Camp Meeting
- I'se Gwine Back To Dixie
Floyd And Boswell
- She's Only A Bird In A Gilded Cage
- Nellie Dare
Kanawha Singers
- Golden Slippers
Al Hopkins & His Buckle Busters
- Hear Dem Bells
James Johnson
- Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet
- Papa Please Buy Me A Airship

Chris Bouchillon
- Let It Alone
- My Fat Girl
The Skillet Lickers
- A Fiddlers' Convention In Georgia - Part 1
- A Fiddlers' Convention In Georgia - Part 2
Blind Andy
- The Fate Of Edward Hickman
- Little Marian Parker
Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers
- The Old Grey Mare
- The Girl I Left Behind Me
Roe Brothers And Morrel
- Please Do Not Get Offended
- She'll Be Comin Round The Mountain

Vintage Recordings
cassette # 32

more info

31993White Country Blues
1928-36 A Lighter Shade of Blue

- K.C. Blues - Frank Hutchison
- Cannon Balls Blues - Frank Hutchison
- Leaving Home - Charlie Poole With The North Carolina
- If The River Was Whiskey - Charlie Poole
- Duplin County Blues - Cauley Family
- Sweet Sarah Blues
- Frankie Dean
- A Darkey's Wail - Riley Puckett
- Johnson City Blues - Clarence Green
- Mistreated
- Haunted Road Blues - Tom Ashley
- Steel Guitar Blues - Roy Acuff & His Crazy Tennesseans
- Guitar Blues - Carlisle & Ball
- I Want A Good Woman - Carlisle & Ball
- Ash Can Blues - Cliff Carlisle
- Yodel Blues (Part I) - Val & Pete
- Yodel Blues (Part II)

- Adam And Eve (Part 2) - Mr. and Mrs. Chris Bouchillon
- Carroll County Blues - W.T. Narmour & S.W. Smith
- Ramblin' Blues - Charlie Poole With The North
- Worried Blues - Frank Hutchison
- Train That Carried The Girl From Town - Frank Hutchison
- Lonesome Weary Blues
- Bear Cat Mama - W. Lee O'Daniel & His Hillbilly Boys

Columbia Legacy CT 47920
42005Good For What Ails You: Music Of The Medicine Shows 1926 - 1937

disc 1
- The Spasm - Daddy Stovepipe & Mississippi Sarah
- Tanner's Boarding House - Gid Tanner & Riley Puckett
- Don't Think I'm Santa Claus - Lil McClintock
- Hokum Blues - Dallas String Band with Coley Jones
- Jimbo Jambo Land - Shorty Godwin
- Gonna Swing On The Golden Gate - Fiddlin' John Carson & His Virginia Reelers
- Papa's 'Bout To Get Mad - Pink Anderson & Simmie Dooley
- The Man Who Wrote Home Sweet Home Never Was A Married Man - Charlie Parker & Mack Woolbright
- Bye, Bye, Policeman - Jim Jackson
- The Bald-Headed End Of A Broom - Walter Smith
- Bow Wow Blues - Allen Brothers
- Beans - Beans Hambone & El Morrow
- A Chicken Can Waltz The Gravy Around - Stovepipe # 1 and David Crockett
- Tell It To Me - Grant Brothers & Their Music
- Ain't No Use Working So Hard - Carolina Tar Heels
- Mama Keep Your Yes Ma'am Clean - Walter Cole
- C-H-I-C-K-E-N Spells Chicken - Kirk McGee & Blythe Poteet
- My Money Never Runs Out - Banjo Joe
- Railroadin' Some - Henry Thomas "Ragtime Texas"
- Traveling Man - Prince Albert Hunt's Texas Ramblers
- G. Burns Is Gonna Rise Again - Johnson-Nelson-Porkchop
- Baby All Night Long - Blue Ridge Mountain Entertainers

- Born In Hard Luck - Chris Bouchillon
- He's In The Jailhouse Now - Memphis Sheiks

disc 2
- Gonna Tip Out Tonight - Pink Anderson & Simmie Dooley
- Chevrolet Car - Sam McGee
- It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo' - Gid Tanner & His Skillet-Lickers
- Bring It With You When You Come - Cannon's Jug Stompers
- Atlanta Strut - Blind Sammie
- Go Along Mule - Uncle Dave Macon & His Fruit Jar Drinkers
- Casey Bill - Earl McDonald's Original Louisville Jug Band
- I Got Mine - Frank Stokes

- Hannah - Chris Bouchillon
- Adam & Eve In The Garden - Bogus Ben Covington
- Mysterious Coon - Alec Johnson & His Band
- Her Name Was Hula Lou - Carolina Tar Heels
- Reno Blues - Three Tobacco Tags
- Scoodle Um Skoo - Papa Charlie Jackson
- Stackalee - Frank Hutchison
- The Cat's Got The Measles, The Dog's Got The Whooping Cough - Walter Smith
- Shout You Cats - Hezekiah Jenkins
- Nobody's Business If I Do - Tommie Bradley
- Sweet Sixteen - Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers
- Ticklish Reuben - Charlie Parker & Mack Woolbright
- I Heard The Voice Of A Porkchop - Jim Jackson
- Shine - Dallas String Band with Coley Jones
- The Gypsy - Emmett Miller & His Georgia Crackers
- Kiss Me Cindy - J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers
2 CD set
notes by Marshall Wyatt
& Bengt Olsson

Old Hat CD 1005

52005Tom Darby & Jimmy Tarlton
also starring Chris Bouchillon

CDs 1-3
Tom Darby & Jimmie Tarlton

CD 4
Chris Bouchillon
The Original Talking Blues Man
- Born In Hard Luck
- Talking Blues
- New Talking Blues
- Hannah
- Old Blind Heck
- Let It Alone
- My Fat Girl
- Waltz Me Around Willie
- Ambitious Father
- You Look Awful Good To Me
- The Medicine Show
- I've Been Married Three Times
- My Wife's Wedding
- Adam And Eve, Pt. 1
- Adam And Eve, Pt. 2
- Oyster Stew
- Oh, Miss Lizzie
- Girls Of Yesterday

4 CD box set
notes by Pat Harrison

JSP CD 7746

Sources / Further reading:
- own record collection
- Tony Russell: Blacks Whites and Blues.- Stein and Day, New York 1970, p. 18
- Tony Russell: Country Music Records - A Discography, 1921-1942 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 119-120, 934-935
- eBay auctions
- diverse internet resources

source of left column picture: Tony Russell 1970, p. 18

Thanks to Eric S. LeBlanc for additional info: "According to the Social Security files, CHRISTOPHER BOUCHILLON died in September 1968, West Palm Beach, FL., and was born on August 21, 1893. His wife Ethel died in January 1980, West Palm Beach (and was born on January 16, 1903)."

Other artist's Covers of Chris Bouchillon songs
of release
Record Title

- featured Chris Bouchillon song
label # / notes
119??Pat Foster & Dick Weissman
Documentary Talking Blues

- Original Talking Blues
click to enlarge !
Counterpoint/Esoteric (Everest)
5550 (stereo)
= 550 (mono)

21961The New Lost City Ramblers
Vol. 3

- Talking Hard Luck
    (John Cohen, voice and guitar)
click to enlarge !
Folkways FA 2398

John Cohen's "Talking Hard
Luck" is a composition of Chris
Bouchillon's "Born In Hard Luck"
and Lonnie Glosson's "Arkansas
Hard Luck Blues" (reissued on
Yazoo 2018 "The Roots Of Rap")

"Arkansas Hard Luck Blues" lyrics
"Arkansas Hard Luck Blues" soundclip

31962Snuffy Jenkins (& Homer Sherrill)
Carolina Bluegrass

- Born In Hard Luck
click to enlarge !
Arhoolie 5011
(oops- cover photograph
wrong way round again !)

reissued on CD 9027 "Pioneer
Of The Bluegrass Banjo"
more info

Tom Paley, John Cohen, Mike Seeger Sing Songs Of The New Lost City Ramblers

- Talking Hard Luck
    (John Cohen, voice and guitar)

Folkways FA 2494
51978Steve Mann
Elephant Songs & Cow Cow Blues

- Hard Luck Man [real audio]
Steve Mann's "Hard Luck Man"
is a cover of John Cohen's
"Talking Hard Luck"

Blue Goose 2024

Steve Mann homepage

Unofficial Blue Goose
Records homepage

61999The New Lost City Ramblers
The Early Years: 1958-1962

-- Talking Hard Luck
    (John Cohen, voice and guitar)

Smithsonian Folkways CD 40036

more info


Stefan Wirz

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(latest date of editing: 07/26/2013)