Dr. Banjo » Notes From The Road » Charles Sawtelle Tribute

Charles Sawtelle Tribute

Notes From The Road: This is my “Pete’s-eye view” feature on this site, with reports on interesting people and events I encounter in my travels. Charles’ memory burns bright on a special night.

Over two years after the death of my Hot Rize cohort Charles Sawtelle in March, 1999, his only solo album finally appeared, thanks to the hard labor of love of producer Laurie Lewis. She managed to piece together Charles’ unfinished work, holding close to his musical values and style, working with Charles’ many musical friends. With the release of the album, Ray Toomey of Boulder’s Chautauqua complex wanted to celebrate by inviting many of the luminaries from the record to play at the big Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder.

It’s hard to imagine what else could have brought together the likes of David Grisman, Norman Blake, Peter Rowan, Laurie Lewis, Michael Doucet, Tim O’Brien, Nick Forster, and more. But we were all there for Charles, and his parents, brother and family. That evening as the sun set on the grounds, a beautiful wooden bench and sitting area dedicated to Charles was unveiled, and in a simple ceremony we sat on the bench and enjoyed the setting.

With only a few hours of rehearsal to prepare for a full evening of music, there was an impromptu aspect that seemed to add to the spirit of the occasion. Along with playing banjo on the bluegrassy numbers, I got to perform a song I wrote specifically for Charles, “Treasures Left Behind”:

“I used to love to watch your hands as they lay upon the strings,
And I guess they loved it too and the way you made them sing.
I can put a record on and hear that sound again
And if I close my eyes I can travel back to then.
Down here on earth, is there anything I can find
To bring a piece of you back to me
And treasures left behind.”

The 1200 or so at this concert will remember that night for a long time. Shortly thereafter, the record, “Music From Rancho Deville” received an IBMA award nomination for Recorded Event of the Year. Charles’ friends and fans love the CD especially for its several vocals by Charles, and the first of his compositions to ever be heard on record. Thank you Laurie, for putting this together, and David Grisman of Acoustic Disk Records, for putting it out.

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