Chautauqua Auditorium Dedicates Bench to Local Bluegrass Legend
BY Joe Kovack
BOULDER- Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder will host a bench dedication ceremony for local musician and Colorado bluegrass aficionado Charles Sawtelle on Thursday May 24 at 5:30 p.m.
Sawtelle was a founding member of Hot Rize, a Colorado-based bluegrass band that became a staple of the genre around the Front Range and beyond since the late 70’s. Born in Austin Texas, Sawtelle spent most of his life growing up in Colorado, receiving his degree in fine arts and ceramics and eventually settling down in Boulder. Sawtelle was a full time employee of the Denver Folklore Center with band mate Nick Forster.
Hot Rize formed in 1978 and steadily grew to become one of the nation’s premiere bluegrass bands, eventually garnering a Grammy nomination for their 1990 album “Take it Home.” Sawtelle became known for his unique guitar styling and in a 1998 Flatpicking Guitar Magazine article, was said that “the Charles Sawtelle style of guitar playing is something all aspiring bluegrass guitarists would do well to spend time studying.” He spent the latter part of his life in Boulder with his recording studio Rancho Deville, producing records for many local and national artists. Sawtelle also recorded his solo CD here which was posthumously released. Sawtelle died of leukemia in 1999 at the age of 52.
The dedication will feature statements from family and friends and also a few songs from the remaining members of Hot Rize; Pete Wernick, Tim O’Brien, Nick Forster and Bryan Sutton, who will also be performing the following day, May 25th, in Denver at DU’s Newman Center in an event honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Folklore Center. The Chautauqua event is free and open to the public.