Madisonville musician celebrates national blues victory

Daniel "Boscoe" France showed his son, Gabriel, and daughter, Veda Sioux, the details of his Gibson Les Paul guitar. Just recently France won the"Battle of the Blues" in Los Angeles, winning $25,000 and other prizes, among them the guitar.
Daniel "Boscoe" France showed his son, Gabriel, and daughter, Veda Sioux, the details of his Gibson Les Paul guitar. Just recently France won the"Battle of the Blues" in Los Angeles, winning $25,000 and other prizes, among them the guitar. AP

MADISONVILLE — Daniel "Boscoe" France Jr. is still taking it all in.

The past several weeks have been a whirlwind for the Madisonville musician.

Just recently France took the stage at Club Nokia in Los Angeles as one of the six grand finalists in the 2012 "Battle of the Blues," emerging at the end of the night as the victor.

Sitting on his couch at his home in Madisonville, France said the magnitude of his win hadn't sunk in yet.

"I'm just so thankful to God," France said. "I give him all the glory and the credit."

It's been a long journey for the 35-year-old France, who first picked up a guitar 32 years ago.

It was his uncle, Duke Madison, who also nicknamed him Boscoe as a newborn, that showed him how to play guitar.

"He is the biggest influence in my life as far as music," he said. "My mom and dad are my heroes, but he gave me a guitar when I was three."

Without his uncle, France said his music career wouldn't have happened. Madison passed away in 2009, but France feels he's there in spirit when he plays.

France began playing blues music in clubs as a young teen.

After graduating from Madisonville-North Hopkins High School in 1995, France left Kentucky and worked several years in Nashville. He was a crew guy for lots of acts, working for Brooks and Dunn as a lighting guy for seven years.

"I got to admit, sometimes I'd see the guitar players and say, 'Man, I could do that,'" France said.

Prior to the start of the "Battle of the Blues," the former lighting guy made sure to shake hands with the crew and thank them for the setup. They returned to shake his hands and congratulate him once he had won.

After returning to his hometown, France formed a band called The Library Trio. He later formed The Boscoe France Band, along with bass player John Gillespie and rhythm section Jimmy Cummings.

When he started out playing gigs, he told his bandmates he wanted to work every night and turn it into a job.

"I can't not play guitar," France said. "I wouldn't feel right. I wouldn't feel like I was using what God's gift was for me or my purpose."

Naysayers have told him he's an idiot, that he's wasting his life and blowing his kids' futures.

France said his guitar job allows him to walk his son to school every day and to be with both his children all the time. When they go to bed, he goes to work.

His main priorities are his two kids, eight-year-old Gabriel and three-year-old Veda Sioux.

"I adore being a dad," he said.

While out in Hollywood, France made sure to go over Gabriel's spelling words on the phone and was pumped when he learned his son score a 100 on the test.

Right before he went to L.A., France spent every dime on the kids, purchasing Disney tickets and a hotel room. If he hadn't won the competition, he was prepared to sell a prize guitar so they'd have money on their vacation.

France said the kids could not care less about him winning the "Battle of the Blues." Gabriel did see pictures of Malibu Beach and asked his dad why he couldn't go, so France plans to take his son to California on his next trip out.

Family is very important to France.

His parents, Daniel Sr. and Karen, were ecstatic and proud once they learned he'd won the "Battle of The Blues."

"My dad is my biggest, biggest supporter," France said. "He's the one who had to hear me play awful all those years because he was the one closest to the bedroom door."

The elder France doesn't play guitar, but his son said he intends to give his father a Gibson to hang on his wall.

His family, including younger sister Jennifer, who is handicapped, also reside in Madisonville.

"Nothing good has ever happened to any of us," France said. "None of us, and I'm not saying this is good, but it's a start."

By winning the competition, he received a $25,000 cash prize and a slew of musical equipment that matches that amount. Among his prizes are brand new Gibson guitars, the same hammers used by guitar gods Duane Allman and Slash.

France said he might use some prize money on his small house, maybe adding an extra room.

He felt a bit out of place at the swanky hotel in L.A., because he likes to keep it real. France heard people whisper about him when he walked around with bologna and bread.

"I don't put on no airs for nobody," he said. "Out there you really felt like you needed to and I just couldn't do it."

Hanging out in Venice Beach with homeless artists and a buddy of his, who used to live in L.A. and played France's tour guide on the trip, was more his speed.

"They were just beautiful people," he said.

During his interview, the musician often repeats that everything happens for a reason. Leading up to the competition, he couldn't help but notice several signs in his favor.

On his flight out to L.A., France sat near two other music men, one of whom was the ex-spouse of Trisha Yearwood, while the other man worked for Brooks and Dunn.

France worked for both country acts while living in Nashville and spent much of the plane trip chatting with the two men.

When he arrived in Hollywood, France was checked into the Ritz-Carlton in room 960. The room numerals wouldn't mean anything to most people, he said, but it matched digits in his parents' phone number.

His past as a Brooks and Dunn lighting guy also popped up in L.A. While asleep, France dreamed he was eating lunch with an old friend he knew that had worked as a wrestling promoter when he was in Nashville.

France felt compelled to phone his friend. When the friend called back a few hours later, it turned out he was staying just across the street from France in L.A. and was back doing wrestling promotion.

It was another night vision that helped determine what France chose for music at the "Battle of the Blues." His daughter's mother sent him a text before the competition that she dreamed he played "Amazing Grace" like he had at his uncle's funeral, and then performed "Rock Me Baby."

France had been undecided about what he would do for his acoustic set because he plays many styles of guitar, but the text settled it.

"So I did what she told me," he said. "She had a dream, and she had a dream for a reason."

When France was a kid, he loved watching championship wrestling with his dad on Saturday mornings after Bugs Bunny cartoons. They also caught matches in person on Wednesday nights at the Veterans Coliseum in Evansville. Jerry "The King" Lawler was one of his favorites.

Walking past a WWE promotion near his hotel in L.A., France was amazed to hear Lawler's named announced to the crowd.

"I hit my knees and I started crying," he said. "I knew right then."

France said he knew he wouldn't have any nerves at the contest, that he would play the "fire out of the guitar" and have a ball.

A friend had told him that "the surfer who has the most fun wins." France had a blast on the stage, loving playing for a crowd of blues enthusiasts.

"If nothing else I am proof that if you keep plugging along and you don't give up, even at 35, receding hairline, small house, bald head and the whole bit," said France, pausing to add, "Man, God is good."