MerleFest, set for April 24-27 on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, has announced the addition of “BanjoRama,” a one-time-only assembly of music’s top banjo players performing together
Hosted by “Dr. Banjo” Pete Wernick, BanjoRama will feature renowned banjo players Jens Kruger, Sammy Shelor, Alison Brown, Scott Vestal, Mark Johnson, Jim Mills, Rob McCoury, Terry Baucom and Ned Luberecki, Graham Sharp. The banjo all-stars will be backed by The Travelin’ McCourys and Bryan Sutton. Fans can also expect a few surprises.
“BanjoRama is going to be an ‘only at MerleFest moment’ in 2014,” MerleFest’s Artist Relations Manager Steve Johnson said. “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.”
While the banjo originated hundreds of years ago and can be traced back in some form to sub-Saharan cultures of the 13th century, the banjo heavily identifies with American Roots music. Earl Scruggs in particular popularized the instrument which he mastered with his own unique style.
“Scruggs and his disciples infused the banjo roll into bluegrass music – whose many styles in turn expanded the banjo’s horizons,” Pete Wernick said. “The worldwide reach of bluegrass and its intertwining with other musical styles has landed the banjo in a wide set of contexts. Pop music has discovered the banjo, and banjoists have shaped their own music with the influence of genres from classical to jazz and rock, to regional music from around the world. So, as of 2014 the banjo is no one thing.”
Tickets for MerleFest 2014 can be purchased at www.MerleFest.org or by calling 1-800-343-7857. More than 130 acts will perform on 13 stages during the course of the event. MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the late Eddy Merle Watson, son of the late American music legend Doc Watson, and is a celebration of “traditional plus” music. The annual event has become the primary fundraiser for the WCC Endowment Corporation, funding scholarships, capital projects and other educational needs.