Sam Wilson passes

Sam Wilson of Campton in Wolfe County, eastern Kentucky, passed away at The Greg & Noreen Wells Hospice Care Center, Hazard, Kentucky, on Sunday, February 25, 2018, at the relatively young age of 69. He had a stroke about 10 months ago and, more recently suffered kidney failure. 

He had major surgeries in 2011 including having his bladder, prostate and one kidney all removed due to cancer. 

Born at Frozen Creek, Breathitt County, Kentucky, on December 31, 1948, Wilson played guitar and sang in the mournful, mountain style of Ralph Stanley and Dave Evans. 

Wilson founded the Kentucky Mountain Ramblers in 1968. Later Wilson formed the Bluegrass Colonels and the group remained active until health issues made it impossible for him. 

In the 1990s Sam Wilson and the Bluegrass Colonels were a SPBGMA award winner (in the Fan’s Choice Division). 

He put together an ad hoc grouping, using the name the Kentucky Cardinals, for his performance at the Athy Bluegrass Festival in 1994. 

From time to time he played with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. 

Wilson was the first artist to record for Randall Deaton’s Lonesome Day Records. 

Wilson picks Wild, Wild Rose as the best song of his career … 

Dean Osborne, Director at the Kentucky School of Bluegrass & Traditional Music, Hyden, feels Sam Wilson’s passing particularly deeply …… 

“Despite overcoming huge medical problems with cancer and multiple surgeries, Sam never lost his incredible voice, ability to entertain or sense of humor. I commented the last time he worked with us in Hyden at the Osborne Brothers Hometown Festival in 2016 that he never sounded better. His spirit to not let anything get him down was a great inspiration to a lot of us around him.” 

Sam Wilson was a first cousin to Russell and Curnie, the Wilson Brothers (of Kentucky). They were definitely all cut from the same cloth. 

R.I.P. Sam Wilson

A Discography – 

Sam Wilson 

Come Hear My Story (Lonesome Day Records LDR 001, 2002), featuring Tom Adams, Wendy Miller and Michael Cleveland

Sam Wilson & the Bluegrass Colonels 

Wild, Wild Rose (Galactic Entertainment GED 1107, released in 1993) 

Ralph Stanley and Sam Wilson 

What About You (River Track Studios RTS 1233, 1988; cassette only)

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.