Pete Wernick on Steve Martin wedding

Pete WernickWe posted yesterday afternoon about Hot Rize performing during and after Steve Martin’s “surprise” wedding ceremony at his home in Los Angeles on July 28. As we might have suspected, Pete Wernick (Dr. Banjo) was in the thick of the preparations, owing to his friendship and banjo connection with Martin.

Pete provided this overview of how it all went down.

It wasn’t exactly a surprise wedding. It was planned months ahead, but due to Steve’s celebrity, he was concerned about paparazzi disrupting things, and asked that it not be discussed at all in advance, as word about such things tends to travel fast.

In brief, Steve got in touch with me some months ago about providing music for the wedding (at his home in Beverly Hills). I asked if he wanted me to get some musicians from the area, or just “whoever I want.” He said to get whoever I want. When I asked, what would you think of having Hot Rize, he said, “I’d kill for Hot Rize.” Thank goodness that wasn’t necessary. Bryan Sutton, who generally plays guitar with us, was not available, so we got David Grier, who did just fine of course.

Steve and his wife Anne gave a lot of thought to the music they wanted, and they took my suggestion to use Romance Is a Slow Dance, a great song of Tim’s, to begin the ceremony. Then Tim fiddled a beautiful Irish air as the bride and her father came forward. The ceremony, performed by “Reverend” Bob Kerrey (former U.S. Senator), was followed by a rousing banjo tune.

Steve had indicated that if Hot Rize was there, “it would be a sin” not to have us do a mini-set for the guests. He added, “as in, I would go to hell.” So following dinner, Steve introduced us and we did five songs including Blue Night, High on a Mountain, and a song I wrote for Steve and Anne, This is Our Time. For the last two tunes, we were joined by Steve on banjo, and played Steve’s tune The Crow and finished with Foggy Mt. Breakdown. We were very well received, with the guests applauding for solos and many nice comments afterwards. In attendance were such notables as Tom Hanks, Diane Keaton, Carl Reiner, Eugene Levy, and Martin Mull. Steve and Martin both participated in the jamming that went on into the night.

Steve arranged that all guests receive a copy of the band’s So Long of a Journey CD as a party favor. As they filtered out and the party wound down, we continued to play informally, with Steve and Anne asking for one more rendition of Romance Is a Slow Dance.

The next morning we headed for LAX, and I made it all the way to Elkins, WV for Bluegrass Week at the Augusta Heritage program, which is where I’m writing this from!

In closing, I’ll say it is truly an honor for Hot Rize to be appreciated in such a high class way by such a respected figure of American culture as Steve Martin. People ask me what sort of person he is, and I can say in all honesty that he is one fine gentleman, with the wonderful quality of showing interest in other people and making them feel appreciated. Almost impossible to fathom that, given his irreverent style of humor, but it’s true. I also am often asked about whether Steve might do one thing or another for “the bluegrass cause,” and I can only say time will tell. Naturally if he has any desire to do that, I will be glad to facilitate!

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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.