“We are taking requests tonight, so if any of y’all want to hear something, be sure to ask and if we don’t know it I am sure that Freddie will be more than happy to learn it for you,” teased an energetic Brandon Turner at a recent Tuesday night gig with Piedmont Bluesman Freddie Vanderford in Sparanburg, SC.
Brandon Turner is a master musician and a South Carolina treasure. City of Pacolet, SC Mayor Elaine Harris says, “Brandon is truly a gifted artist and he shares his talents with his community each year at our annual Indian Summer Festival. He also teaches our school age children about the history of folk music as it relates to our textile heritage. Brandon, with his gentle soft manner, engages children and adults into joining him in song. As you can tell, Brandon is a beloved member of our Pacolet Community.
Brandon Turner has been deeply rooted in music ever since he can remember. The Pacolet, South Carolina native’s father played drums and would always have musicians dropping in to play music at his house. Brandon received his first electric guitar around the age of nine years old. It was something he was born to do and he began an education of music and the many different styles of picking the guitar.
The Delta Blues and the Piedmont Blues were first in capturing the pre-teenager’s ear. Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck would provide the hours of study on styles of some of the greatest guitar legends. Local musicians Wes and Gene Wyatt would teach the young Brandon Turner and invite him to jam sessions they would host. It didn’t take the student long to hold his own against men who had played for many years of mastering the craft.
I recall the first time I ever saw Brandon. It was in Junior High School during those years in a young adolescent’s life when kids can just be cruel and very judgmental. I was a shy kid who hung out in the Library. One day, this guy comes into the Library (with bell bottoms on and everyone in the school was giving him a hard time) and he was a very talkative, full of life sort of guy, the likes of which I had never seen. Brandon talked to me as if he had known me his whole life. He was a few grades below me and rode the bus with me as well. I was into punk rock/grunge bands heavily at that time for that was the sort of music at the time that was blowing up. Brandon, on the other hand, was into Eric Clapton, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Robert Johnson and many more artists that were very foreign to me and the rest of the school. He was an enigma, always telling jokes and talking of classic music that was way before our time. Eventually, he would come over to the house by walking about 3 miles, and we would talk music. It worked out great. He would teach me about Bob Dylan and I was turning him on to Nirvana.
Brandon was absorbing anything musically that would come his way and was playing gigs with artist treasures of South Carolina, such as blues great Freddie Vanderford and legendary songstress (and Emmylou’s backing vocalist) Fayssoux McLean.
“Brandon Turner has developed a reputation for being what one Nashville musician called a “badass” guitar player, says McLean. ”His execution is incredible and, being intuitive, he knows what notes to play to move a song along and which ones to leave out. Of course, he can play crazy notes and phrases and has the fastest eye-hand coordination I have ever seen, which makes him an amazing performer! I met Brandon twelve years ago when he was a senior in high school and I will always treasure his friendship and his musicianship. He played lead guitar, bass, electric guitar and keys on my Nashville CD, Early. He regretted there was no bagpipe to try out! He is a thoughtful and kind guitar wizard who has enriched my life unbelievably.”
Brandon puts his whole heart and soul in music while never forgetting where he came from. The guy who calls himself “just an old mill hill picker” has gone on to put together one hell of a resumé. One that has his craft showcased on twenty different albums, including co-production of the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award winner, Greasy Greens, for Freddie Vanderford. He also littered the album with his now multi-instrumental skills, playing everything from dobro to singing background vocals. ”Brandon began playing with me in ’99, when he was just 19 years old,” says Vanderford. “Besides being one of best guitar players anywhere, he is a wonderful person…an honorable man!”
Peter Cooper, accomplished musician/producer and music writer for the Nashville Tennessean said, “Brandon Turner plays guitar with ease, tone and invention, whether trading bluegrass licks with Ricky Skaggs, dueling on searing electric guitar with Will Kimbrough or creating plaintive acoustic parts for songs featuring Emmylou Harris, Fayssoux McLean or Angela Easterling. Hailing from a region that has given us country-jazz master Hank Garland, blues great Pink Anderson and country-rock kingpin Toy Caldwell, Turner synthesizes his native influences into something unique, fresh and pleasing.”
Nowadays, Brandon is playing three to five gigs a week and putting his entire soul into his work. It doesn’t matter if it is five people at a show or five hundred, he is always the same guy, with his “Aw, shucks“ mentality and Ned Flanders look. More importantly, he is having fun at what he does and doing what he loves for a living. If you ever catch Brandon out and about you can bet all the money you have that a guitar is somewhere close by.
For more on Brandon, visit www.brandonturnerguitar.com.
~ Jason Robinson
Jason Wallace Robinson hails from Spartanburg, South Carolina. He’s a writer, storyteller, philosopher, single father raising two children, music lover, dreamer, joker. He writes to speak for the Common Man. He enjoys football and driving around in his ’96 Chevy Lumina adorned with an American Flag and decorative bird offerings.
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