Longtime members Pete Wernick, Nick Forster, Tim O'Brien and Charles Sawtelle met at the Denver Folklore Center in the late 1970s. They worked there in various capacities -- as music instructors, instrument repairmen or at the store. Wernick and Sawtelle had a band called the Rambling Drifters that played the Folklore Center's venue every Tuesday, and Forster and O'Brien often joined them as sidemen. The collaborations gradually got more formal; Wernick, O'Brien and Sawtelle contributed to each other's solo records, and the three decided to form a band called Hot Rize. They recruited Mike Scap, who lasted only a few months before quitting, and on May 1, 1978, Forster came on board as the band's bass player. O'Brien played mandolin and fiddle, Wernick played banjo, and Sawtelle played guitar.