Ramblin' Rhodes: Sam Bush to bring newgrass music to Southern Soul & Song

Sam Bush last performed in Augusta in November 2010. He'll be back in town Jan. 11 for a repeat performance in the Southern Soul & Song Series.

Bluegrass musician Sam Bush is heading back to Augusta as the next star of the Morris Museum of Art’s Budweiser True Music Southern Soul & Song series.


He and his band will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11, at Imperial Theatre. Tickets are $24, $19 and $13 from (706) 722-8341 or imperialtheatre.com.

His last Augusta appearance was in November of 2010 for the series.

Most Augustans first saw Bush when he joined guitarist Jon Randall, banjo player Scott Vestal and other musicians to perform the music for the Augusta Ballet’s 2001 original production of The Legend of the Hatfields and McCoys.

Bush surely will be playing several songs from his current album, Circles Around Me, that came out in October 2009.

One of the unique songs on the CD is The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle that Bush co-wrote with Guy Clark and Verlon Thompson.

It tells about the 1973 brutal shooting murders of Grand Ole Opry star David “Stringbean” Akeman, known widely for his comedy sketches on the Hee Haw TV series, and his wife in a botched robbery at their rural Tennessee home.

Akeman also played banjo in Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys band from 1943 to 1945. He and Monroe actually met when they played for different semi-pro baseball teams.

When Akeman left Monroe’s band, his replacement was banjo player Earl Scruggs.

“Guy and Verlon started the idea of the song and told me they were writing it and wanted me to help with it,” Bush said in a call.

“Guy said, ‘We need a real hillbilly over here to help us,’ and when (singer/songwriter) Guy Clark calls and wants your help, you go running.

“We wanted the music to sound like a traditional folk ballad. All of the facts are totally true.”

Bush got to see Stringbean play live a few times including on the Ryman Auditorium Grand Ole Opry stage.

His father, fiddle player Charlie Bush, often took Sam backstage to the Opry shows where Sam early on got to meet Opry legends like Roy Acuff and Bill Monroe.

Two songs on the Circles Around Me CD feature bluegrass legend Del McCoury. They are the Bill Monroe songs Roll On Buddy, Roll On and Midnight On The Stormy Deep.

Bush notes on his sambush.com Web site, “Del always encouraged me to sing. So I wanted to do these songs with him. Roll On is one of the few songs Del ever recorded with Bill.”

Beginning Feb. 22 in New York City, Bush and McCoury are launching several shows together for 2013.

Circles Around Me is his seventh solo album and his sixth for Sugar Hill Records. The release party was a combination of introducing the CD and celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary.

He and his wife, Lynn, met in Kentucky (she’s from Louisville) and married in 1984.

“I’m the luckiest man in the world,” Bush said. “I’m married to a woman who is an accountant.”

Bluegrass music has been filled over the years with many colorful characters like Jimmy Martin, Sonny Osborne, Kenny Baker, Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, Little Roy Lewis and Earl Scruggs.

Many are known for their feuds with each other both on and off stages.

When I told Bush that it seems bluegrass music today has far fewer colorful characters he replied, “The older generations carried on a lot of feuds and stuff.

“Most people in bluegrass music today came along like I did and realize we are all out there just trying to make a living.”

And he added, “I see a lot of characters still out there, and I know a lot of rascals. I’m glad we still have some trailblazers who were the originators of different styles.”

Bush himself, of course, is the undisputed founder of newgrass music, which uses bluegrass as its base but adds jazz, blues, rock and other influences.

The Kentucky Legislature in 2010 made it official when it passed House Joint Resolution 154 designating Bush as “The Father of Newgrass Music” and Bowling Green as “The Birthplace of Newgrass Music.” It unanimously passed both the Kentucky House and Senate.

He is also known for his performing in Emmylou Harris’ Grammy Award-winning Nash Ramblers band, in the Kentucky-based Bluegrass Alliance band and his own New Grass Revival band.

Next to his love of music, Bush is a huge baseball fan partial to the St. Louis Cardinals. His dog, Ozzie, was named after shortstop Ozzie Smith of the Cardinals.

“I get the blues every year when the World Series ends,” he said. “I really root for everybody pretty much.”


WHO: Bluegrass star Sam Bush with his band, part of the Morris Museum of Art’s Budweiser True Music Southern Soul & Song series

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11

WHERE: Imperial Theatre

TICKETS: $24, $19, $13; (706) 722-8341, imperialtheatre.com