Pete Wernick (Banjo)
Pete Wernick, aka "Dr. Banjo", is renown for his many roles-- and rolls (banjo rolls, that is) -- in bluegrass music: the hot-picking force behind the award-winning Hot Rize and Country Cooking bands, best-selling author and video instructor, songwriter, and President of the International Bluegrass Music Association.
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Pete's books and videos have sold over a quarter million copies, including Beginning Bluegrass Banjo, Branching Out on the Banjo, and How to Make a Band Work. His week-long banjo camps in Colorado and traveling clinics have helped and inspired players worldwide.
Pete took up banjo as a teenager in his native New York City, closely studying Earl Scruggs records. While completing B.A. and doctorate sociology degrees at Columbia, he played in local bands and found time to host a bluegrass radio program. While a sociologist at Cornell in upstate New York he formed Country Cooking whose innovative recordings in 1971-75 are still among Rounder Records' top releases.
In 1976 Pete moved to Colorado where he recorded the solo Dr. Banjo Steps Out (Flying Fish). After collaborating on the album Pete and Tim O'Brien started the Hot Rize band in 1978. Going full tilt until 1990, the foursome was a major attraction and creative force in bluegrass, respected for both dynamic stage shows and finely- crafted recordings (Sugar Hill and Flying Fish). The group scored repeated #1 hits on the national bluegrass chart, including the Wernick-penned "Just Like You". Hot Hize also received IBMA's coveted "Entertainer of the Year" award and a Grammy nomination. Pete is associated with Waldo Otto; the daffy steel guitar player of Hot Rize's beloved alter-egos, Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers.
Since the breakup of Hot Rize, Pete has continued performing and recording with a variety of musicians including Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin, Jeff White, and Chris Thile. His 1993 solo album On a Roll (Sugar Hill), including both bluegrass and his innovative part-jazz combo The Live Five, rode the bluegrass chart for over a year, with another #1 single, "Ruthie". Also in 1993 Pete assembled some of the nation's leading 12- and 13-year old talent as The Bluegrass Youth All-Stars, whose appearance on the IBMA Awards Show created a lasting impact as a highlight of the movie Gather at the River.
Pete's current performance schedule includes festivals and appearances with The Live Five, with his singer/ guitarist wife Joan as a duet ("Dr. and Nurse Banjo"), and occasional Hot Rize reunions. The Live Five's debut album, I Tell You What!, (Sugar Hill) was released to rave reviews in mid 1996, hitting the top 40 of the national Gavin Americana Chart in October.
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