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A to Z listing

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  • From New York City. Lives in Niwot, Colorado.
  • Known as “Dr. Banjo” because of a best-selling banjo instruction book he authored (over 200,000 copies sold).
  • Has an earned doctorate from Columbia University in sociology.
  • While at Columbia University, he performed with a band called the Orange Mountain Boys.
  • 1969, moved west and joined High Country, a San Francisco-based bluegrass band. Also worked briefly with Vern Williams and Ray Park.
  • 1970-1975, moved to Ithica, New York to complete his Ph.D. work at Cornell University. Also performed with Country Cooking with Tony Trischka and future wife Joan (known as Nondi Leonard at the time).
  • 1976, moved to Colorado. There he met up with Charles Sawtelle and formed a band called the Drifting Ramblers, or the Rambling Drifters (they couldn’t make up their mind.)
  • 1977, released “Dr. Banjo Steps Out” album (Flying Fish).
  • 1978, formed Hot Rize, a very popular band which won the very first IBMA award for Entertainer of the Year in 1990. The group also broke up in 1990.
  • With “Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers” (a country-western band that was actually Hot Rize in disguise), Peter played the steel guitar as “Waldo Otto”.
  • 1985, created one of the first bluegrass instructional videos Beginning Bluegrass Banjo. He has since created 10 instructional videos.
  • 1986, became the IBMA’s first president (stepped down in 2001 due to new term limits.)
  • Conducts “banjo camps” for musicians who want to improve their technique on the banjo.
  • 1989, he was a passenger on United Airlines Flight 232—a DC-10 that crashed in Sioux City, Iowa. While his banjo and steel guitar were damaged in the crash, he and his family survived and he was back performing with Hot Rize two days later.
  • An outspoken advocate of atheism, he served as president of the “Family of Humanists” and co-authored a book titled Atheism for Kids.
  • 1992, formed The Live Five, playing what Pete called “Virtual Bluegrass.” The group’s name was later changed to Pete Wernick and Flexigrass.
  • 1993, released On a Roll album (Sugar Hill Records).
  • 2000, created his Dr. Banjo website, offering instructional content.
  • 2004, a song from his album “Dr. Banjo Steps Out” titled “Big Rock in the Road” was played on the planet of Mars to “wake up” NASA’s landing craft Spirit Rover on February 27, making this the first bluegrass tune to be heard on another planet.
  • 2004, hosted a show on XM Satellite Radio.
  • 2005, performed with Earl Scruggs, Steve Martin and other banjo players on the David Letterman show.
  • 2009, began performing with a Colorado-based band called Long Road Home.
  • 2010, received a Distinguished Achievement Award from the IBMA.
  • 2010, launched “The Wernick Method” which trains teachers to lead successful bluegrass jam sessions.
  • 2014, began touring with a rejuvenated Hot Rize in support of their new album When I’m Free.
Artist List

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