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Sam Bush concert set for Jan. 25

Sam Bush, known as the “Father of Newgrass,” brings his signature style to the Historic Earle Theatre on Saturday, January 25,. The Earle is the second stop on Bush’s 2020 tour, with 19 dates over the next eight months.

Bush, who has won multiple Grammy Awards on projects he’s led and on those he’s contributed to, has been voted Mandolist of the Year many times over by multiple music outlets, including IBMA where Bush has won Mandolin Player of the Year four times. He also has four Instrumental Performer of the Year awards from IBMA, as well as Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year and Album of the Year.

A distinctive fiddler as well, Bush first came to acclaim as a teenager when he won the junior division of the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest three times. He recorded an instrumental album, Poor Richard’s Almanac, as a high school senior and in the spring of 1970, Bush attended the Fiddlers Convention in Union Grove. There he heard the New Deal String Band, taking notice of their rock-inspired brand of progressive bluegrass.

Though Bush broke through with his playing ability, he is more noted for breaking rules and breaking ground. Roy Acuff offered Bush a spot in his band, but Bush turned him down. He admired the grace of Flatt & Scruggs, loved Bill Monroe, but he’d discovered electrified alternatives to tradition in the Osbourne Brothers and manifest destiny in The Dillards.

Bush joined Ebo Walker and Lonnie Peerce’s Bluegrass Alliance playing guitar, but began playing mandolin after recruiting guitarist Tony Rice to the fold. After a fallout with Peerce in 1971, Bush and the rest of the band formed New Grass Revival, issuing the band’s first album the same year. Walker left soon after, but the group eventually solidified around the arrival of bassist John Cowan.

“There were already people that had deviated from Bill Monroe’s style of bluegrass,” Bush said. “If anything, we were reviving a newgrass style that had already been started. Our kind of music tended to come from the idea of long jams and rock and roll songs.”

New Grass Revival garnered the interest of Leon Russell, one of the era’s most popular artists. Russell hired them as his supporting act on his 1973 tour, putting the band in front of tens of thousands nightly.

Bush discovered a similarity with the reggae rhythms of Bob Marley and the Wailers and, accordingly, developed an ear-tuning original style of mandolin playing. New Grass Revival issued five albums in their first seven years, and in 1979 became Russell’s backing band. In 1981, two members left the group, replaced by banjoist Bela Fleck and guitarist Pat Flynn.

A three-record contract with Capitol Records and a conscious turn to the country market took New Grass Revival to new commercial heights. They released chart-climbing singles, made videos, earned Grammy nominations, and, at their zenith, called it quits. “I’d spent 18 years in a four-piece partnership,” recalls Bush, “I needed a break. But I appreciated the 18 years we had.”

Bush worked the next five years with Emmylou Harris’ Nash Ramblers, then a stint with Lyle Lovett. In 1995, he reunited with Fleck, now a burgeoning superstar, and toured with the Flecktones. Then, after 25 years of making music with New Grass Revival and collaborating with other bands, Bush went solo.

Bush has released seven albums and a live DVD over the past two decades. In 2009, the Americana Music Association awarded Bush the Lifetime Achievement Award. “With this band I have now, I am free to try anything. Looking back at the last 50 years of playing newgrass, with the elements of jazz improvisation and rock and roll, jamming, playing with New Grass Revival, Leon, and Emmylou; it’s a culmination of all of that,” says Bush. “I can unapologetically stand onstage and feel I’m representing those songs well.”

The Jan. 25 show in Mount Airy begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $45-$75 and are available online at, via phone at 336-786-7998, or at the Surry Arts Council office at 218 Rockford Street. For additional information, contact Courtney Thompson at 336-786-7998 or

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Sam Bush will be in concert Jan. 25 at the Historic Earle Theatre in Mount Airy. Bush will be in concert Jan. 25 at the Historic Earle Theatre in Mount Airy.



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