Michael Cleveland wins Blue Blaze Award

Michael Cleveland receives the 2018 Blue Blaze Award from Sam Stout – photo by Bill Conger

Grammy-nominated fiddler Michael Cleveland has another trophy for his immense collection after he was honored yesterday (July 7) at the 47th annual Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Craft Festival. He was presented with the 2018 Blue Blaze Award.

“It’s an honor to me,” Cleveland told Bluegrass Today before the presentation. “I’ve competed in this contest as a kid. There’s a lot about the contests, but it was more about hanging out with everybody and being around kids your own age who are good players, and all the other folks involved. Just to come back here to see it and actually get to play with my band is going to be great. I’m really honored to be asked to come and accept the award.”

“The purpose of the Blue Blaze Award is to recognize a group or individual who keeps the embers of bluegrass music glowing for future generations,” said Sam Stout, Jamboree President and Coordinator. “Michael Cleveland certainly does that, and more. He is an inspiration to all of us.” 

The member of the National Fiddlers Hall of Fame started playing at the Jamboree as a young boy. He last jammed at the Jamboree more than 20 years ago. 

“There was a band that Pete Wernick organized to play the IBMA Awards in 1993 when it was still in Owensboro called the Bluegrass Youth All-Stars. It wasn’t that exact band, but after that awards show, there was a record label out at the time called New Haven Records. A few people from that label decided to organize a band to get some of the original members that were on that show and a few others. We all used to get in a band contest, and we would compete in all the other categories as well.” 

 Cleveland longed to return to his old musical stomping grounds for quite a while, and the awards presentation and mini-concert that followed provide the right opportunity. 

“We’ve said for years we need to go back to one of these contests and not play, and take the day and hang out and see a bunch of people,” Cleveland said. “There’s a bunch of guys I competed with that still do it. This is great for this to work out and actually hopefully to get to see a little bit of it too.”

“It’s going to be a blast!” 

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About the Author

Bill Conger

Bill Conger has been a music journalist for 23 years for a variety of TV, radio, print, and websites including TNN, CMT, CMT.com, GACTV.com, Country Music Today, Bluegrass Unlimited, and www.songwriteruniverse.com. He is currently writing a biography on the life of Bobby Osborne.