Through the Stages

Through the Stages

Through the Stages

Through the Stages

What an honor it has been to have experienced Telluride Bluegrass through its various stages… Which, now that you mention it, includes both literal phases of musical exploration and physical stages for performances. Fun how that all ties together so well.

And to think, what began with a makeshift stage in the bed of Kooster McAllister’s pickup truck gathered momentum in the way only grassroots efforts can. It paved the way for fully sold-out shows, misty Mumford & Sons debuts, and unforgettable nights with James Taylor crooning out over a sea of mesmerized Festivarians.

The town gathered these experiences like tokens, draping them like garments across the valley floor. Take a peek…


The Fall Creek Boys Celebrate the Fourth of July

And what a celebration it was! Fred Shellman, Kooster McAllister, John “Picker” Herndon, and JB gather a small crowd in Town Park, and an idea is born.

1974- The 1st Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Where it all began

Following a successful Fourth of July Celebration in Town Park in 1973, the Fall Creek Boys kicked off the 1st Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1974. It coincided with Solstice weekend, and thus began the initial seeding along the path that would become known by fevered Festivarians across the globe.

“By not knowing what to do, it actually made it possible, because we didn’t realize things like you’re supposed to have money to pay the bands before you hire them. If we had known, it never would have happened. We just sort of did it the Telluride way” -Kooster McAllister

1975- The 2nd Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival

We might be on to something here…

The mystical is happening in Telluride.

Word was spreading, and people were coming to explore Telluride and the illustrious San Juan region. They were drawn in by colorful descriptions of distinguished mountain ranges that seemed never-ending, and of an open-minded music scene unlike any other. 

A young, starry eyed 23 year old made his journey up the Canyon. Sam Bush had never been to Telluride before, but you know they say there’s a first time for everything. He played on a small stage in the Middle of Town Park to a moderate crowd of 3 thousand people.

The Excellence of the Eighties

Have you heard about Bluegrass?

What began on a whim in your favorite small mountain town gathers momentum as it travels the course of the eighties. The mythos behind this annual pilgrimage trickle outward, and before long it has solidified itself into a tradition. The stage grows as the caliber and number of artists playing each year continues to tick upward.

1990- The 17th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Shaping a Scene

The lore surrounding Telluride Bluegrass grows, as James Taylor plays on the Main Stage, prompting Relix to refer to TBF90 as one of the “10 Shows That Shaped a Scene.”

1991- The 18th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival

Constructing something new

After TBF90, it became clear that we could go bigger. Time for another iteration of the stage. Let the madness begin!

1991- A Well Oiled Machine

A new stage ushers in a new era

As Planet Bluegrass continues to define and redefine bluegrass music for future generations, many of our young swashbucklers shift gears and begin to gather kindling during their solstice quest each year.

They hope to instill in their children the same fire, the same yearning for bluegrass jams and grown men in dresses that they themselves have been unable to quench. One of said children is so eager for the adventure that they’re born in the vendor area in the middle of the ‘94 fest. That’s a good tidbit for two truths and a lie!

1993- Expansion and Exploration

A Musical Education

Telluride Bluegrass stretches downtown as famished Festivarian’s appetites for live music continue to grow. Elk’s Park, in the heart of downtown, becomes home to the Troubadour and Band Contests as well as other intimate workshop-style concerts with Main Stage artists. Nightgrass spreads to venues like the historic Sheridan Opera House, Fly Me to the Moon Saloon, Palm Theatre, the Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village and other venues.

2018 - The 45th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival

The Fred Shellman Memorial Stage

2018 brought with it a new stage and, with that, some modern comforts like plumbing and running water. A momentous occasion we look back on fondly.

The best of the best have gathered on this stage. Some of our favorite “bluegrass” artists like Brandi Carlile, Tenacious D, Kacey Musgraves, Gregory Alan Isakov, Dierks Bentley, and many more. They sure appreciated not having to use the porta potties!


A Golden Anniversary

And now we arrive in the present. How lucky that the twist and turns have brought us here! In a June whirlwind we will gather to commemorate the effervescent mixture of song, dance, topography, and play that is the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. We will watch in awe as history paves the path forward.

Strings will bend at the will of their musical maestros, and an exuberant planet of bluegrass will flourish.