“I’ve really enjoyed my music over the years,” says Ashe County musician Butch Barker. “I don’t think I would have got by without it.” Known primarily as a bluegrass musician, Butch plays guitar, bass, and fiddle, and he sings lead and harmony. While he has made his daytime career at American Emergency Vehicles building molds for ambulances, he spends much of his free time picking informally with friends, performing with bluegrass groups, sound engineering at fiddlers’ conventions, and promoting the music of northwest North Carolina.
Butch was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and grew up in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. His family was from Ashe County, but like many families from northwest North Carolina, moved to the Mid-Atlantic states. Another Ashe County family who moved to Pennsylvania included Ola Belle Reed and Alex Campbell, who established Sunset Park in West Grove, Pennsylvania, a venue for live traditional music. Butch’s family lived near Sunset Park and his father was a big bluegrass fan. “We would go to Sunset Park every Sunday,” he recalls. “I saw Flatt and Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers, Reno and Smiley, and all kinds of great bluegrass bands.”
Butch took after his mother’s side of the family and became interested in playing. “My mom played guitar, and her brothers played,” he says. “My grandfather, McKinley Blevins, played fiddle. In fact, I have his old fiddle and have won a few contests playing it.” Butch started learning guitar, and later learned to play bass and fiddle.
The family moved back to Ashe County when Butch was in high school, and he was happy to be back in the place they considered home. Butch got acquainted with Wayne Henderson and started performing with him around 1970. He played with various bands for several years before becoming a member of Rock Bottom Bluegrass Band. Rock Bottom, which included Dale and John Roten, Loyd Richardson, and Mack Powers, performed and recorded together for 15 years.
Butch now performs with Creek Junction, along with Don McCraw, Jordon Blevins, Loyd Richardson, and Paul Trianosky. The members are old friends, who have known each other from festivals and bluegrass events. The social aspect of these events is partly what attracts Butch. “It’s just been a great experience over the years,” he notes. “I’ve met so many great people.”
Butch Barker is available for performances with Creek Junction, and he also does sound engineering for fiddlers’ conventions and similar festivals.