BanjoRama comes to MerleFest 2014

BanjoRama comes to MerleFest 2014Have you ever thought to yourself… “There’s just not enough banjo music at MerleFest?”

Not a problem for 2014. The mega-festival’s new Artist Relations Manager, Steve Johnson, has organized a special, one-time banjo geek-out show for Friday, April 25 on the main stage. Billed as BanjoRama, the set will be hosted by MerleFest regular Pete Wernick, and feature performances by Jens Kruger, Sammy Shelor, Alison Brown, Scott Vestal, Mark Johnson, Jim Mills, Rob McCoury, Terry Baucom, Ned Luberecki, and Graham Sharp, with the expectation of some additional surprise guests.

They will be supported by The Travelin’ McCourys with Bryan Sutton on guitar.

Johnson said that the inspiration came in a flash.

Steve Johnson“The idea for the event came about while I was pondering ways to keep the spirit of Merle Watson alive at the festival. Not many people know that Merle was also a banjo player, as was Doc. So, this seemed a fitting way to keep that part of their music in our program next year. To me it was important to showcase a diverse lineup of banjoists in the set. It needed to be something that would be hard to replicate and would truly stand out as unique. Most importantly, it needed to be something Doc and Merle would appreciate.

I discussed the concept with ‘Dr. Banjo’ Pete Wernick and we immediately developed the idea to include a number of performers, such as the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass recipients, International Bluegrass Music Association Banjo Player of the Year award winners, unique stylists, and innovators of certain ‘styles’ of banjo playing. We achieved that desired outcome by including recipients of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence: Jens Kruger, Mark Johnson, and Sammy Shelor. IBMA Banjo Players of the Year: Sammy Shelor (2012, 1995, 1996-tie, 1997, 1998), Scott Vestal (1996-tie), Alison Brown (1991) and Jim Mills (1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006), along with Graham Sharp, who is best known for his banjo work with the latest Bluegrass Album Grammy Award recipients The Steep Canyon Rangers. McCoury, Wernick, and Sharp, are winners of IBMA’s Entertainer of the Year with their respective bands, The Del McCoury Band, Hot Rize and The Steep Canyon Rangers. We also anticipate some special guests. At present we have over a dozen performers slated for this feature event. No one at MerleFest will want to miss this!”

MerleFest 2014 runs April 24-27 on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.