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Kentucky’s Boscoe France Claims Top Honors in Guitar Center’s Annual Battle of the Blues Competition

Thousands of aspiring blues guitarists went down to the crossroads — but only six of them made it to Guitar Center’s Battle of the Blues Grand Finals, which took place August 18, 2012, at Club Nokia in Los Angeles.

The star-studded night, which featured performances by Dr. John and emcee Joe Bonamassa, was the culmination of Guitar Center’s annual nationwide search for the top undiscovered blues guitarist.

That title went to Boscoe France of Madisonville, Kentucky, who performed without inhibitions — and without shoes — wowing the judges with his dexterity, creativity and boundless collection of spine-tingling riffs and bends.

“Winning the Guitar Center Battle of the Blues is surreal,” says France, 35. “I love the blues. It’s in my heart and soul. I wasn’t a rock guy entering a blues contest; I was a lover of this music first and foremost, playing it in bars since I was 14. My uncle, Duke Madison, has the most to do with my sound, and Elmore James, Freddie King and Duane Allman are my go-to guys.”

France won $25,000 in cash, studio sessions with Grammy-winning guitarist and producer Pete Anderson, gear from Gibson, Epiphone, Egnater, Boss, Ernie Ball and Shure, a host of endorsement deals and more.

The evening’s judges included Anderson, who backed all six finalists with his band; Grammy-winning guitarist Leo Nocentelli of the Meters; Jude Gold of Guitar Player magazine and Musicians Institute; jazz singer Mindi Abair; 2010 Guitar Center King of the Blues winner Randy Scott; and Josh Gooch, a 2009 King of the Blues finalist who plays with Shania Twain.

As for Boscoe’s penchant for gigging without footwear, “The first thing you do when you get home and relax is lose the shoes. I want that same feeling onstage. I’d like to think it's a Kentucky thing — easy going and relaxed.”

Check out France’s winning performance at gc.guitarcenter.com/battleoftheblues. (opens in new tab)

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Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas (opens in new tab), was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron (opens in new tab), a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums (opens in new tab). He now plays in two NYC-area bands.