BROWN-HUDSON FOLKLORE AWARD FOR LEROY SAVAGE | Blue Note Grill | Dine & Listen | Indy Week
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BROWN-HUDSON FOLKLORE AWARD FOR LEROY SAVAGE 

When: Sun., Oct. 8, 4 p.m. 2017
Price: free

Nowadays, Leroy Savage is known as the father of newgrass music, an honorary title bestowed on him by Sam Bush. But back in the early seventies, Savage was a long-haired rebel leading the charge to incorporate a new sound into bluegrass. Blending rock, reggae, and jazz into high-and-lonesome with a jam band aesthetic, The New Deal String Band, with Savage on lead vocals, pioneered the music that would be labeled newgrass in later years. Bush watched Savage and company at the Fiddler's Convention in Union Grove in 1970 and was impressed at how hard the hippie musicians were pushing the boundaries of traditional bluegrass music. A set list from the band's show at Carlton Haney's Camp Springs festival the following year reveals an eclectic mix of music: the Bill Monroe/Peter Rowan bluegrass staple "Walls of Time" is bracketed by the 1918 crooner's classic "After You've Gone" and Leiber And Stoller's 1956 hit for The Clovers, "Love Potion No. 9." For "Waiting for a Train," originally by Singing Brakeman Jimmie Rodgers, Savage went for full-tilt yodeling coverage, and Savage and his band squeezed the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil" and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young's 1970 hit "Teach Your Children" in there, too.

Less than a decade later, in 1978, Savage joined up with another boundary-pushing band, The Bluegrass Experience. When Tommy Edwards founded the band in 1971, the name deliberately referred to the Jimi Hendrix Experience to advertise that the band was a little farther out than a traditional bluegrass outfit, mixing rock, country, and folk with originals and traditional covers. And just as he had done with The New Deal String Band, Savage used his distinctive voice to ride the range from 'grass to rock to country. They showed off at Cat's Cradle every Thursday night until Savage's departure from the band in 1981.

These days, you can still catch Savage playing all around the area, fronting the Leroy Savage Band, with Tommy Edwards, Jason Beverly, Harris Marley, and Fiddlin' Al McCanless as his bandmates. On Sunday, they and a few other friends convene to celebrate Savage's musical accomplishments with the North Carolina Folklore Society's Brown-Hudson Award. The organization founded the award in 1970 to honor those who have contributed in a special way to the appreciation of North Carolina folklife. Past recipients of the award include musicians Doc and Merle Watson, Alice Gerrard (who also performs Sunday), playwright Paul Green, string band musicians Joe and Odell Thompson, and potter Nell Cole Graves. It'll be a vibrant celebration among longtime friends—the joy they'll strum up is sure to be contagious. —Grant Britt

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