Rest in Peace, Warren Hellman

I describe the festival frequently as the world’s most selfish gift. It’s a fantastically selfish gift, but it is a gift. There are hundreds of thousands of people there who are appreciating it. Just being able to do something that is completely not commercial, that is pure, hopefully, pleasure for the participants–to create a surrounding where the musicians and professionals like it as much as the crowd does. How could you have more fun than that? What the hell is money for if it isn’t for something like that?

(Warren Hellman to Forbes in 2006)

What do you say about an eccentric billionaire who personally bankrolled the world’s greatest bluegrass festival as a gift to roots music and the city of San Francisco? This October marked ten years of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and now it will outlast even its creator (who passed away at 77 yesterday of complications from leukemia) thanks to an endowment he created to ensure its future.

That’s not all Warren Hellman did, of course. For a fuller accounting of his life, you can read the pieces that ran in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Bay Citizen.

Here’s a nice 2010 segment on Hellman and Hardly Strictly by the San Francisco Arts Commission.

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About C.M. Wilcox

A freelance writer and humorist with an abiding love of country music, C.M. Wilcox's cutting, clear-eyed take on the genre has drawn the attention of Country Weekly, The Washington Post, and The Tennessean in the years since this site began. C.M. lives near Sacramento and can be reached by email at CMW (at)

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