Charles Sawtelle

Charles Sawtelle (September 20, 1946 – March 20, 1999) was an American bluegrass musician and a member of the band Hot Rize. Sawtelle died on March 20, 1999 from leukaemia.[2]

Charles Sawtelle
Born(1946-09-20)September 20, 1946
Austin, Texas, United States[1]
DiedMarch 20, 1999(1999-03-20) (aged 52)
GenresBluegrass music
Occupation(s)Vocalist, guitarist, record producer
InstrumentsGuitar, bass
Years active1976–1999
LabelsFlying Fish, Sugar Hill, Acoustic Disc
Associated actsThe Rambling Drifters, Monroe Doctrine, Hot Rize, Red Knuckles and the Trail Blazers, Charles Sawtelle and the Whippets


A guitar player and vocalist, Sawtelle was one of the original members of Hot Rize. He also played the character Slade in the band's alter ego Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers).[3]

Sawtelle was born in Austin, Texas, but he grew up in Colorado.[1] Before Hot Rize, Sawtelle was a member of the bands the Rambling Drifters (along with Tim O'Brien and Pete Wernick)[4] and Monroe Doctrine.[5]

In Hot Rize, Sawtelle played the bass until he replaced Mike Scap on guitar. Sawtelle also worked behind the scenes to ensure Hot Rize maintained a professional demeanor.[6]

After the members of Hot Rize went their separate ways in 1990, Sawtelle formed the band Charles Sawtelle and the Whippets, including Fred Zipp (mandolin, vocals), Jim-Bob Runnels (banjo), and Dan Mitchell (string bass, vocals).[7] Sawtelle also performed and recorded with Peter Rowan.[2]

Sawtelle recorded his one solo album Music From Rancho deVille while he battled the leukemia that led to his death. His friend Laurie Lewis co-produced the album, and ensured its posthumous release.[8] Besides Lewis, the album features Michael Doucet and Vassar Clements (fiddles), Todd Phillips (bass), Flaco Jiménez (accordion), Jerry Douglas and Norman Blake (guitars), David Grisman, Sam Bush, and Tom Rozum (mandolins), and, from Hot Rize, Nick Forster, Pete Wernick, and Tim O'Brien.[3]

Sawtelle operated the Rancho Deville Recording Studio near Boulder, Colorado, and it remains in operation today as the Sawtelle Recording Studio.[9]

After Sawtelle's death, flatpicking guitarist Bryan Sutton joined Hot Rize for their return to performance, touring, and recording.[6][4]


Solo albums

As a member of Hot Rize

  • 1979: Hot Rize (Flying Fish)
  • 1981: Radio Boogie (Flying Fish)
  • 1982: Hot Rize Presents Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers (Flying Fish)
  • 1984: Hot Rize Extra Added Attraction: Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers in Concert (Flying Fish)
  • 1985: Traditional Ties (Sugar Hill)
  • 1987: Untold Stories (Sugar Hill)
  • 1990: Take It Home (Sugar Hill)
  • 2002: So Long Of A Journey (Live At The Boulder Theater) (Sugar Hill)

As producer

  • 1992: Front Range - The New Frontier (Sugar Hill)
  • 1993: Front Range - Back To Red River (Sugar Hill)
  • 1993: Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers - Shades of the Past (Sugar Hill)
  • 1994: Abhi Ktori - Feast of Magic (White Swan)
  • 1994: Mary Flower - Blues Jubilee (Resounding)
  • 1995: Kate MacLeod - Trying to Get It Right (Waterbug)
  • 1996: The Bluegrass Patriots - E Pluribus Bluegrass (Red Feather) - reissued in 2008 with extra track
  • 1997: Kate MacLeod - Constant Emotion (Waterbug)
  • 1997: Leftover Salmon - Bridges To Bert (Bert)
  • 1998: K. C. Groves - Can You Hear It (Goatscape)
  • 1998: Mollie O'Brien - Big Red Sun (Sugar Hill)
  • 1999: BeauSoleil - Cajunization (Rhino)

Also appears on


  1. Sicliano, Lisa (2012-05-25). "Hot Rize dedicates Chautauqua bench to Charles Sawtelle". Marquee Mag. Retrieved 2016-05-01.
  2. Prytherch, John (May 1, 1999). "Charles Sawtelle, Guitarist. 1947 - 1999". North West Bluegrass News. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  3. Richardson, Derk (August 28, 2007). "Charles Sawtelle: Music from Rancho DeVille". Yoga Journal. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  4. Murphy, Tom (September 24, 2014). "The Return of Colorado's Bluegrass Kings". Westworld. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  5. Glen Giffin. "Colorado lost its share of notables in the arts during 1999". Denver Post. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  6. Lehndorff, John (September 1, 2010). "On The Rize – Landmark Bluegrass Band Still Hot After All These Years". Bluegrass Unlimited. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  7. Wadey, Paul (March 28, 1999). "Obituary: Charles Sawtelle". The Independent. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  8. Hill, David (April 30, 2001). "Charles Sawtelle - Music From Rancho deVille". No Depression. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  9. "Sawtelle Recording Studio". Swallow Hill Music. Retrieved June 11, 2017.
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