The Telluride Blues & Brews Festival 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 and then there’s the backdrop: historic downtown Telluride and Town Park, surrounded by 13,000+-foot peaks.

Telluride Blues & Brews Festival was not always about music with a beer back. The event started out life as the Telluride Brewers Festival.

The Telluride Brewers Festival opened for business 18 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.

Steve Gumble’s love of the blues began in college after a friend introduced him to Muddy Waters. 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 39 this summer.

Year 1 of Blues & Blues, Funky METERS headlined. It was snowy and there was six inches of mud in Town Park. But the 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.

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, which includes blues, funk, jam band, rock, gospel and soul. The only thing you likely won’t find at Telluride Blues & Blues is rappers. But with Gumble, I wouldn’t even bet on that.

The 2012 Festival weekend, Friday, September 14 – Sunday, September 16, features headliners Phil Lesh & Friends, Gov’t Mule, and The B-52s. Additional performers include Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Little Feat, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Anders Osborne, Phil Wiggins & Rev. John Wilkins, Orgone, Kelley Hunt, Pickwick, and Big Jim Adams & John Stillwagen to the festival lineup. Previously released acts include The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, MarchFourth Marching Band, Tab Benoit, Little Hurricane and The Lee Boys.

“This year may be the most eclectic and exciting line-ups in the history of the festival,” said Steve. “Just amazing and legendary musical talent will bring the house down this fall, guaranteed!”

Festival highlights include a wide variety of food and craft vendors, the Rainbow Kids area and Kid’s parade, free Blues for Breakfast concerts, late night shows at local Juke Joints, and the Telluride Acoustic Blues Competition.

For festival information visit online at


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