Lenoir native comes home again

Mark Bumgarner also will play at Merlefest
Apr. 11, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

Mark Bumgarner started playing music as a high school student, “beating and thrashing around,” as he describes it, the beginning of a long musical journey.

Originally from Lenoir, Bumgarner, 53, moved to Boone when he was 12 but moved back to Lenoir when he was 19, in 1980, and has lived in Lenoir for more years than any other place, though he lives in the Asheville area now.

On Saturday, he’ll come back to his hometown to play a show at 7 p.m. Saturday at 1841 Café with Jaret Carter, Patrick Crouch and Ron Shuffler. The show is also a warm-up for the four musicians before they head off to Merlefest in Wilkesboro, one of the largest music festivals in the country, where they’ll play at the Plaza Stage on April 26 at noon and 6 p.m.

Today, at 53, he lives with his wife, Aimee, and three children about 20 miles north of Asheville in the small farming community of Barnardsville, which he says reminds him of Happy Valley with its bordering mountains and meandering river.

When he came back to Lenoir in 1980, he really took his music to the next level, Bumgarner said, picking up with local musicians Patrick and Kay Crouch. Bumgarner played with the two in a country band called Long Time Gone, and getting in a band with two music instructors “helped a guy that only had a feeling in his gut” get a better understanding of playing music, Bumgarner said.

He played with the C&M Traveling Show in the early '80s, playing at P.B. Scott’s in Blowing Rock, a now-closed venue that saw the likes of Doc Watson, Ricky Skaggs, Muddy Waters and Tammy Wynette.

Over the next few decades, Bumgarner hopped between a few different bands, leaving the C&M Traveling Show with a few others to form the band Longrider, which Bumgarner stayed with through the rest of the '80s.

A few years later, he moved to Nashville, where he went to work in health care recruiting for 10 years while also working in music and writing songs, and in 2000 formed the band Jubal Foster, named for a moonshiner character on "The Andy Griffith Show." He cut one album with the band, an amalgamation of North Carolinian expatriates living in Nashville, including Buddy Melton, now the fiddle player and vocalist for the band Balsam Range, which featured Bumgarner on their first, third and upcoming fifth albums.

In December 2004, he moved back to North Carolina and has concentrated more on being a solo act, developing as a songwriter and playing music around Western North Carolina, sometimes as a duo with his wife as the band Calico Moon.

“I certainly enjoy getting back to Lenoir,” said Bumgarner, who last played in town at Sweet T’s, the former name of what is now 1841. “I get to see a lot of old friends and play all my new tunes.”