Hot Rize


  • From Boulder, Colorado.
  • Formed in 1978 by Pete Wernick (banjo), Tim O’Brien (mandolin/fiddle), Mike Scap (guitar) and Charles Sawtelle (bass). Three months after the band’s formation, Scap departed and was replaced by Nick Forster (bass). Sawtelle then switched from bass to guitar.
  • Prior to the formation of Hot Rize (1976), Wernick and Sawtelle had a Colorado band called the Drifting Ramblers or the Rambling Drifters (they couldn’t make up their mind.)
  • About the name: Hot Rize is the so-called secret ingredient in Martha White flour, a long-time advertiser on the Grand Ole Opry and for many years sponsor of the Flatt and Scruggs radio show on WSM, Nashville.
  • The Hot Rize show usually featured an appearance by their alter-ego band, Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers, a western-swing group supposedly from Wyoming that traveled with Hot Rize in the back of the bus. Even though Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers was actually Hot Rize in disguise, the group became very popular in their own right and recorded several albums. (Trailblazer fans were called “Knuckleheads”).
  • 1990, won IBMA Award for Entertainer of the Year and broke up. The played their last show together as a full time band at Merlefest.
  • 1991, a year after they broke up, their recording of “Colleen Malone” won the IBMA award for Song of the Year.
  • Following their break-up, each of the band members pursued their own musical careers: Pete Wernick (also known as “Dr. Banjo” performed with his own band The Live Five and served for several years as president of the IBMA. Tim O’Brien put together his own band called the O’Boys and had success as a songrwriter and solo artist. Nick Forster hosted a live PBS radio show called “E-Town.” Charles Sawtelle built a recording studio and did session work.
  • 1999, guitarist Charles Sawtelle died of cancer (leukemia).
  • 2001, Tim O’Brien became the second member of this band to become president of the IBMA, succeeding his bandmate Peter Wernick.
  • 2007, reunited (with Bryan Sutton playing guitar) to perform at actor/comedian Steve Martin’s wedding.
  • 2009, co-hosted the IBMA Awards show with Kathy Mattea.
  • 2010, performed at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.
  • 2014, reunited to record a new album When I’m Free and perform a six-week tour.
  • 2018, released 40th Anniversary Bash live album (Ten in Hand), recorded at the Boulder (Colorado) Theater.