Sam Bush: “The King Of Telluride”
The Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado is one of the most well known bluegrass festivals in the country. Around those parts Sam Bush is known as “The King of Telluride”. Unlike most royalty, this king’s throne is a stage and his scepter is a mandolin.
The Telluride Bluegrass Festival has come into it’s 40th year. Sam Bush has graced the festival for 39 of those years. One of Sam’s earliest and possibly his most famous band, New Grass Revival, visited Telluride for the first time in 1975, at the 2nd annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival.
I remember J.B. and Helen Matteotti, John “Picker” Herndon, Kooster McAllister, and Fred Shellman, the Festival’s organizers. They were all as excited as little kids about their event and about us. They had first seen NGR at the National Picking Contest in Winfield, Kansas. It became their dream to have our band at their event. Once in Telluride, ‘hospitable’ would be a light term for how they treated us. They would have given us the shirts off their backs. Instead, they gave us their smiles and their hearts. Their loving spirit spilled out into the audience. We were long-haired hippie guys trying to play our special brand of music. At other bluegrass festivals, promoters threw us up on stage at one o’clock in the morning and the older folks in lawn chairs would pack up when we came on. But Telluride was different. I don’t recall ever being treated so warmly. There may have been just over 1,000 people in the crowd, who let us know how much they liked our kind of weird. The weirder we were, the more they danced and cheered. Telluride seemed up for anything. Since then, I’ve grown up with the Bluegrass Festival. I’ve watched it grow and change as I have grown and changed. But one thing remains the same: In Telluride, the crowd is still up for anything.
Now just over 60, Sam Bush is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist, who does not seem old enough to be a legend. Legend or not, The King of Telluride is a performer who has already been honored for his lasting contributions to the industry by the Americana Music Association and the International Bluegrass Music Association.
Check out this recent interview with Sam Bush by Telluride Inside & Out.