“Dr. Banjo”, is renowned for his wide-ranging contributions to bluegrass music: innovative picking in trend-setting bands, instructional camps, books, videos, as a songwriter, and as long-term President of the International Bluegrass Music Association.
Discovering Earl Scruggs and bluegrass as a Bronx teenager in the 60s folk music scene, Pete went from Washington Square jams to organizing bands and launching a bluegrass radio show that is still on the air. While in Ithaca, NY finishing a PhD and working as a sociologist in the early 70s, he formed Country Cooking, which saw the first recordings of Pete and Tony Trischka, playing “twin banjos” on their original arrangements and tunes.
In the 70s Pete also wrote the breakthrough instructional books Bluegrass Banjo and Bluegrass Songbook, with sales now in the hundred thousands. Later books include How to Make a Band Work and Masters of the Five-String Banjo, coauthored with Trischka. A teacher of all stages of learning banjo, Pete originated banjo camps in 1980 and has created 10 instructional videos. In the 90s he offered the first bluegrass jam camps, and now heads the Wernick Method system of jam teaching, overseeing teachers nationwide and in 10 countries.
Based in Niwot, Colorado since 1976, as a performing and recording artist Pete is best known for Hot Rize, the legendary world-traveled bluegrass band he organized in 1978. The group toured full-time for 12 years and continues to record and perform each year. Pete’s playing has been described by Steve Martin as “lyrical”, and as the writer of numerous banjo tunes, bluegrass “hit” songs, and the purveyor of band styles known as “flexigrass”, he is an enduring creative force in American roots-based music. Pete served from 1986-2001 as the first President of the IBMA, and has received that organization’s Entertainer of the Year and Distinguished Achievement Awards. He feels honored to serve and be part of the worldwide bluegrass community.