Saturday, July 08, 2006

Dr. Banjo calls for Telluride name change

Pete Wernick, a fixture in the Colorado bluegrass community, has challenged Craig Ferguson of Planet Bluegrass to substitute the word "newgrass" for "bluegrass" in the name of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, which held its 33rd annual event last month.

In a interview with Steve Sikes-Nova on Internet radio, Wernick said his proposal would serve two purposes: to correct for the common misperception that the music played at TBF is all bluegrass, and to give recognition to the unique role the festival played in the development of newgrass and jamgrass musical styles.

"Telluride has been a catalyst for the development of newgrass, an outpost for the creative forces that made it happen. Telluride didn't redefine bluegrass, but really created newgrass," said Wernick, the former member of the progressive bluegrass band Hot Rize and past president of the International Bluegrass Music Assoc. who is also well-known as Dr. Banjo.

"Every year that goes by, people are getting miseducated on what the word 'bluegrass' means. And that actually hurts--you have people who are confused, some who get mad. Words mean certain things, and if you change too many of them, you should rename it rather than change the meaning of the word," he said.

Wernick, whose new band is called Flexigrass, added that it is common usage for attendees and townies to refer to the festival by the shorthand name "Bluegrass," further corrupting the definition of the musical genre.

Wernick said that he has made his suggestion directly to Ferguson. "He thinks I am teasing him, but I am actually dead serious. Changing the name would properly honor Sam Bush and the New Grass Revival, who played the festival every year of their existence," he said.

Wernick's comments came in the course of a 90-minute interview on Sikes-Nova's program, which streamed Friday night on the Newgrass, Prog and More channel on In an email, Sikes-Nova said the program will be repeated at other future dates. Check the schedule for details.

In the interview, Wernick also discusses his new band Flexigrass and his jam-camp and banjo camp educatonal programs.

Festival Preview has asked Planet Bluegrass for a response to Wernick's challenge. I'll post it later if a reply is forthcoming.

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