Hot Rize Biography

Formed in 1978 in Boulder, Colorado, this traditional bluegrass band included Tim O’Brien (16 March 1954, Wheeling, West Virginia, USA; mandolin, violin, vocals), Pete Wernick (b. 25 February 1946, New York City, New York, USA; banjo/vocals), Charles Sawtelle (b. 20 September 1946, Austin, Texas, USA, d. 20 March 1999; bass, guitar, vocals), and Mike Scap (bass, guitar, vocals) who was soon replaced by Nick Forster (b. 16 May 1955, Beirut, Lebanon; bass). The band’s repertoire drew upon established bluegrass music but they increasingly composed their own songs. Lively and energetic and always musical, Hot Rize built a following among old and young generations and this, allied to their vital stage presence, ensured their popularity. Never above poking gentle fun at their peers, the music and themselves, they also evolved a separate entity, calling themselves Red Knuckles And The Trailblazers. With this group they played a similar repertoire but emphasized comedy, good-naturedly spoofing traditional bluegrass bands of the past. The Red Knuckles became a popular part of their live shows, usually in a segment within their concerts, and they also recorded in this guise. Throughout, though, the group’s members maintained a high standard of musicianship.

Among the many compositions played by the group are O’Brien’s ‘Walk The Way The Wind Blows’ (recorded by Kathy Mattea), Wernick’s ‘Just Like You’, Sawtelle’s ‘The Butcher’s Dog’ and Forster’s ‘Shadows In My Room’. The group disbanded in 1992 and three of the members continued in the music business (Sawtelle died in 1999 from leukaemia). Forster worked in radio as a producer, Wernick, who had previously played with Country Cooking, began a successful solo career, as did O’Brien. Occasionally, Hot Rize reunited and a 1996 concert session, released in 2002, demonstrated that the band had lost neither its enthusiasm nor its audience appeal. Bryan Sutton replaced Sawtelle at reunion gigs in the new millennium. The band’s name refers to a product advertised on radio by Flatt And Scruggs back in the early 50s.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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