Bowling Green and native son Sam Bush have long been considered by music fans as the progenitors of the newgrass genre.
Now it’s official.
Legislation was passed Tuesday by the Kentucky General Assembly unanimously naming Bowling Green as the birthplace of newgrass, a spinoff of bluegrass music. The legislation also recognizes Bush as the father of newgrass.
“Just a kid going to Warren Central High School, I didn’t know this would ever happen,” Bush said.
Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, sponsored the legislation because “it’s not every day that someone from your hometown creates a genre of music. It’s no big secret that he is considered the father of newgrass and that Bowling Green is where it all started.”
Bush was a member in the seminal newgrass band, New Grass Revival, which was founded in 1971. Bush was the only member of the band to be in all of its incarnations, until it disbanded in 1989.
More recently, Bush is playing his mandolin on a tour that kicked off in Frankfort to promote his latest album, “Circles Around Me.”
“It’s pretty amazing. As a kid who was raised on a farm out on Morgantown Road, it’s humbling,” Bush said. “I take a lot of pride in being from the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The fact is not lost on me that the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe … is from Kentucky.”
Local officials are also happy with the legislation, and are hoping Bowling Green’s new title will help draw tourists to the area.
“Anything positive like that … we can use as a tourism tool,” said Vicki Fitch, executive director of the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The official distinction could be helpful in promoting the International Newgrass Festival. Bowling Green will host the second annual festival Aug. 20-22. About 1,500 people attended the event last year, and Bush was one of the headliners.
“This event has a huge growth potential as word spreads that it is a quality festival,” Fitch said.
DeCesare, himself a musician in local band Skip Bond and the Fugitives, said there might even be the possibility of a signing ceremony with Gov. Steve Beshear and Bush at the Newgrass Festival.
“I love that time of the year when the festivals start rolling back around (and) I look forward to being there,” Bush said.