Bluegrass pickers in central North Carolina have lost a good friend this week with the passing of Harold Chriscoe. He was 81 years old when he passed on July 25, surrounded by his family at home.
Chriscoe had been repairing and eventually building stringed instruments since he was a young man from a shop behind his home in Seagrove, NC. Though employed for many years as a fixer for Klopman Mills in Virginia, Harold was ultimately able to support himself as a luthier and make it his profession. He offered fret work, plus minor and major structural repair, and specialized in building banjo necks for conversions.
But pickers recall that he would have to be urged to take fair compensation for his work. Harold is remembered for his generosity as well as his skill as a luthier, and for his banjo and guitar playing. He was an avid banjo trader, and would regularly find five strings in need of some attention, and return them to their proper glory.
Over the years he did work for many a bluegrass luminary, including the great Earl Scruggs who sought him out once for work on one of his banjos. Others, like Steve Martin, Jim Mills, and Terry Baucom, had instruments checked or repaired by Harold, as did younger artists like Gena Britt and Kevin Richardson. But his services were available to anyone who brought him their beloved banjo, guitar, or mandolin.
Most of his regular clients had come to view him as a friend, and he shared his knowledge and wisdom about bluegrass music, and the instruments used to play it, freely with his friends. His loss will be deeply felt by the entire bluegrass community in his part of North Carolina, who loved him profoundly.
R.I.P., Harold Chriscoe.