Sign Text Reads:
"1A 28 Fiddlin' Charlie Bowman 1889-1962
Charlie Bowman, Hall of Fame fiddler, recording artist, vaudeville performer, and writer of Nine Pound Hammer and East Tennessee Blues, toured with the Hill Billies and other music groups, once performing for President Calvin Coolidge. Two daughters, Jennie and Pauline, were among the first sister act recorded in the country music genre. Charlie and brothers Elbert, Walter, and Argil played for Congressman B. Carroll Reece's campaigns. Charlie and his wife, Fannie, reared 12 children in a log house on Roscoe Fitz Road."
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He was known as "the champion fiddler of East Tennessee," over time being called by such names as "Fiddlin' Charlie," "Tenn-O-See Charlie," and "Fox Hunt Charlie."
Charles Thomas Bowman, born July 30, 1889 in Gray Station, Tennessee, became known as the "champion fiddler of East Tennessee," having won 28 of 32 area fiddle contests he entered during the 1920s. While his musical genre is generally known as pre-bluegrass, traditional old-time Appalachian style music, Charlie preferred to call it "hillbilly music," a term shunned by many people.
Charlie and three of his four brothers, Elbert, Walter, and Argil, began performing at local theaters, schoolhouses, square dances, ice cream suppers, and political rallies. They became well acquainted with the Honorable Tennessee Congressman, B. Carroll Reece, often playing at his political rallies."
Charlie's professional career got on tract during the now-famous 1925 Fiddler's Convention in Mountain City, Tennessee, where he met and soon joined a group of musicians known as "The Hill Billies" (aka "Al Hopkins and the Buckle Busters"). The group had been discovered six months prior by legendary music pioneer Ralph Peer and two years before the famous Bristol Sessions. These musicians soon relocated to Washington, DC, where they performed over WRC, a radio station with national audience exposure.
Response to this musical group was tremendous; they began touring heavily, each making more money than they believed possible. This led them to New York City and recording contracts with jointly owned Brunswick and Vocalion Records. Between 1925 and 1928, the Hill Billies recorded 70 songs with Charlie's brother, Elbert, participating in several of these sessions. They later had the honor of performing before the president of the United States… Calvin Coolidge.
Charlie is credited for writing the classic fiddle instrumental, "East Tennessee Blues," and for putting together the words of the song the "Nine Pound Hammer," along with its companion song, "Roll on Buddy." Charlie imitated a train whistle on a song about a famous CC&O Railroad engineer, and also replicated the sound of dogs on another song concerning a fox chase on Buffalo Mountain, led by Tennessee's legendary "War of the Roses" Governor Alf Taylor.
After Charlie's association with the Hill Billies ended, he returned home to upper East Tennessee, where he and his brothers made four recordings for Columbia Records. Charlie's two teenage daughters, Jennie and Pauline, known as the Bowman Sisters, made two recordings and are believed to be the first sister act to make a country record. They were later invited to New York City for another session.
In January 1931, Charlie and the Bowman Sisters went on the road with the musical ensemble, "The Blue Ridge Ramblers." They subsequently joined the Loew's Metropolitan Theatre Vaudeville Circuit in New York City, touring across the New England States, and performing from two to eight times a day between movie theatre showings.
After leaving the Ramblers, the fiddler began performing out of the Atlanta area, forming several of his own bands, including one called Charlie Bowman and His Buckle Busters. He became associated with such old-time musicians as Clayton McMitchen, Riley Puckett, Fiddlin' John Carson, Uncle Am Stuart, Carson Robinson, Uncle Dave Macon, Sam and Kirk McGee, the Delmore Brothers, and Vernon Dalhart.
Charlie could comfortably ad lib in hillbilly garb before large audiences, playing fifteen standard and not-so-standard instruments such as one-string fiddles, brooms, saws, washtubs, and thick balloons. While Charlie's career began to wane in the late 1940s, he remained active in the music he loved until his death in May 1962. In 2001, he was inducted into the North American Fiddlers Hall of Fame in Osceola, New York. In 2004, the State of Tennessee approved a historical marker for him that was placed in Gray, Tennessee with full political and media coverage.