Telluride Blues & Brews: Overview

Telluride Blues & Brews: Overview

IMG_5859 The Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, Friday, September 17 – Sunday, September 19, is synonymous with its founder, impresario Steve Gumble. His event is the first of its kind in the country, combining as it does micro-breweries with the best of blues music. Telluride Blues & Brews Festival was not always about music with a beer back. The event started out as the Telluride Brewers Festival.

The Telluride Brewers Festival opened for business 17 years ago in 1994 as the beer drinker's answer to the Telluride Wine Festival, which catered back then to the Prada (versus Chaco) brigade. Gumble had met many of the vendors who would return year after year back in the days he owned a liquor store. Year 1, the impresario expected 500 diehards and 1200 showed up. Profits were spread among several non-profits. A home run for sure. But not enough for Gumble.

IMG_6357 Steve Gumble's love of the blues began in college after a friend introduced him to Muddy Waters' music. In 1997, he added music to his beer festival: Telluride Blues & Brews Festival was born. Today what started out as a one-man operation has morphed into a major business with a national reputation, already attracting nearly as many guests to town as Telluride Bluegrass, which turned 37 this summer.

Year 1 of Blues & Brews, Funky Meters headlined. It was snowy and there was six inches of mud in Town Park. But the crowd of 1,000 fans had a blast.

In only one year, Gumble doubled the number of bands on the Main Stage from six to 12. That year, 1998, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Buckwheat Zydeco headlined.

In 1999, the big draw was Hot Tuna.

IMG_6385 In 2000, Gumble was thrown his first curve ball: Gov't Mule cancelled due to a death in the band. But Original 'P' saved the day with one of the craziest shows ever, including dancers tricked out in funk gear.

In 2001, the show went on, despite 9/11 – or because of the tragedy. Gumble put out a message on his website about how blues was born out of a need to heal pain and suffering.

For Gumble, blues is a protean thing. He claims everyone he books for his festival has at least a backbone in blues, which may not be apparent from the outside looking in at the line-up. The only thing you likely won't find at Telluride Blues & Blues is rappers. But with Gumble, don't take that to the bank.

For a Festival schedule, information about the Telluride Acoustic Blues Competition and more, visit And stay tuned to Telluride Inside… and Out for interviews and videos of upcoming acts. And prior to the official launch of Telluride Blues & Brews, attend the First Annual Sunset Concert featuring the Gold Kings & Matt Schofield. That event takes places at Sunset Plaza in the Mountain Village, 5 – 7 p.m. and is FREE.

(2009 B & B photos of Joe Cocker and Buddy Guy by Clint Viebrock)

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