On Wed. April 20, after a bartending shift at Park Circle’s the Sparrow, Eric Brantley was fatally shot in a parking lot just steps away from the fire station and North Charleston High School. There are only two people who know the circumstances leading up to this attack — one was left for dead beside his cherished Honda motorcycle and the other would be the unknown assailant. This senseless act has left so many asking questions, all while reeling with shock at the loss of an amazing character and figurehead in Charleston.
Brantley was a bartender, at one time or another, at Cumberland’s, Gene’s Haufbrau, The Blind Tiger, and The Sparrow. A lifelong musician, he most notably played guitar and sang for the local group Telegram for a number of years, even continuing on after a car accident in October of 2000 that killed drummer Joey Apple and left Brantley in the hospital with a shattered hip. Their triumphant return to the stage was an example of the perseverance that he and his bandmates had to continue on despite this tragedy. For those unaware or uninitiated, Telegram was one of the loudest, most sincere rock bands Charleston had ever heard — a fantastic balance of melody and searing volume that was full of both emotion and bravado. Although his time on stage was brief, his contributions to the musical community were boundless. He was an avid music lover, supporter, and would often share CDs and rare vinyl gems from his huge collection to many.
Legend has it that Eric Devlin Brantley was born 43 years ago with a flavor-saver under his bottom lip and a cigarette in his hand. When delivering a trademark sarcastic remark, his right index and middle finger would wag in unison (usually holding a smoke), he’d shift his weight to one leg, and furrow his brow at you. In fact, the last time I saw Brantley, he scolded me for stealing his finger wag as I was saying something back to him. I’d moved to Nashville, and we hadn’t seen each other before that night in a few years, yet we carried on like no time had ever passed.
I’ve described him as the crummy, older stepbrother I never had. He taught many a lot about music, respect for vinyl records, the sonic beauty of a vintage tube amp, wrenching old cars and Honda motorcycles, and how not to drive like an asshole. I can still hear his voice scolding me for my driving or skipping a record by walking too heavily in his house.
Describing Brantley is like describing your favorite song by The Stooges: brash, loud, sarcastic, surly, direct, smoky, and not for everyone — but he exuded so much cool, had a huge heart, and showed love unconditionally. When a person like that comes into your life, there’s no way to adequately define them in few words. He left many lifetimes' worth of great stories and anecdotes for everyone he crossed paths with. We should all be so lucky and enriched to be memorialized in the same way. Ride easy, brother. EBLA.
How to help:
Several venues are celebrating Brantley this week and donating proceeds to his family to help cover costs. Here's a rundown of where to go to join the cause:
Fri. April 22, The Sparrow at 8:30 p.m.: Eric's favorite LPs and special guests
Sat. April 23, Pour House at 9 p.m.: Sadler Vaden release show w/ Shrimp Records Family Band and INDIANOLA
Sun. April 24, Tin Roof at 8 p.m.: Women in Country
Sun. April 24, Local 616 at 4 p.m.: Eric's favorite LPs