'Mark has always had his heart and soul in the right place both in his songwriting and in his life. I have watched him grow as an artist over the years and with his fine debut album he has proven himself a contender in the field. I enjoyed writing with him on one of the tracks and I look forward to writing more with him. With his energy and spirit I know the best is still to come. His versatility and range of ideas are amazing. He can both challenge you and soothe you. I heartily recommend this album.' - Tom Pacheco 'Mark Barker has a voice equally at home with contemporary and traditional fare. His songs are thoughtful, evocative, and heartfelt; they are well crafted, with a gift for melody evident throughout. It's been my privilege to know Mark for almost twenty years; listening to this will make you want to know him too. Kudos for tasteful production and guitar work by Thomm Jutz.' - Richard Dobson The Legend of Doc Barker by Doug Jones Leburn, Kentucky Wednesday Morning, 2 AM, 10.03.04 Doc Barker really lived. Everything you've heard about him is true. I know. I knew him almost all of his days. He was a rare bird indeed, and truly one of kind. At the time of this writing, Doc is easily one of the world's best practicing singer-songwriters and Doctors of Medical Dentistry. I'll leave his readers, his listeners, and his patients plenty of room to decide what was his talent and what was his passionate hobby. He's a friend to many and has been a close friend of mine for a long time. You may have just heard of him recently on account of his first CD of original songs. He might also have had his hands in your mouth for years. Like an old west gunslinger, he picks up his guitar (or puts on his gloves) and gets right down to business. His generosity and talent in dentistry are widely known, but the songs I've heard him write and sing all these years are just now finally coming to light. Whether he's filling a tooth at the office or filling in a line or chord in a song, he takes his time with the details until he gets it just right. After all, there's good work and there's fast work. He's still got a good eye and ear, and I'm proud to know him. Doc and I come from a little town back in the hills of Eastern Kentucky at the forks of Troublesome Creek, in the County Seat of Knott County, a place called Hindman. The area was so isolated back before the coming of the roads that Knott County was one of Kentucky's last to be pieced together and formed from it's neighbors. Just recently the government had to lock up the County Judge for vote buying up here where we were raised. 'Knott County Mounties', Doc's ode to our past local lawmen, is 100% true to life. The names have not been changed to protect the innocent. Three different rivers originate together in Knott County and roll down to feed the whole eastern third of Kentucky. Some things, like the soul of the music, have been slow to change back in these hills. The late, great Gary Stewart, sweet Patty Loveless, 'Picky' Ricky Skaggs and Dwight Yoakam are a few of those who carried the sound of genuine mountain soul to the flat country. Lots of folks off from here in the big world learned to imitate it, but to some folks, it's just flat-natural born; folks like Doc Barker. Dr. Mark Barker was born November 20, 1953, the third child and the younger of two sons born of Dr. Denzil G. & Gladys M. 'Mickie' Barker of Cowtown, West End, Hindman. He was birthed in Perry County, near his father's homeplace in Hazard. Back in those days it really was a long way to Harlan, just like the Merle Travis song said. Doc remembers hearing music all the time in his family. One of his earliest musical memories was burned when he was visiting his grandparents in Hazard as a very young boy: 'A distant cousin and his wife were passing through and had this little duet worked up. I remember them singing 'Freight Train' and my cousin Jerry finger picking that flat top guitar behind their vocals. I think I knew right then and there that I wanted to play and sing. I remember the sound of that acoustic guitar in the same room with me. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world for him to be picking that guitar and them singing together.' His older brother's early foray into music only fueled young Doc's imagination. 'When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my parents bought a mail order Kay guitar for my older brother Greg. He was sure he wanted to learn how to play. He got a chord book and everything. Soon, he even got together with a couple of other guys and they started a little combo with guitar, sax and drums. They would practice at our house. They were pretty bad, but the possibility of playing guitar in a band intrigued me. I knew I had to learn how to play. I started learning chords when my brother wasn't around. I'd play that Kay with the action so high off the neck that my fingers felt like they would bleed. I never let that stop me. I learned everything from 'Wildwood Flower' to 'Walk, Don't Run'.' Around the same time he spotted his first guitar in the window at Bill Cornett's Western Auto Store in town. That really did the trick. 'I spotted a little red Truetone acoustic hanging on the wall in the local Western Auto. At the time, my weekly allowance was one dollar. The Truetone was $15. I remember first asking my folks if they would buy me that guitar, because I wanted my own guitar. Plus, the action was much lower on it, making it much easier to play than the Kay. They said 'No!', and that I could just play my brother's guitar. I remember I saved for 15 weeks for the Truetone, which I still have to this day. The neck was once painted black, but there's hardly any paint left on the fretboard now. I played it for years, even when I formed my first band. I wrote my first song with that band. We were playing birthday parties. The song was an instrumental called 'In The Mood'. The chord progression was E, G, A, and B,..over and over with two alternating distinct riffs for the trumpet. Little did I know there was already a classic song written by the same name. My band consisted of Lee Thompson on trumpet and Ronnie Napier on snare drum and cymbals, and me on vocals with my Truetone. I remember arranging Lee's trumpet on the song by singing his parts to him. Not a bad song. Soon after, I wrote my first ballad called 'Werewolf's Bride', and actually used it in a play I wrote around the song for a grade school talent show. Some of that was not half bad for an 8 or 9 year old. Then maybe my third original was 'Billy Paul', which I still sing sometimes.' Entering his teens, Doc soon learned the power of music: 'I was singing and playing pretty regularly in various situations...talent shows, beauty pageants and coffee houses. I played guitar and sang in a gospel trio at church for many years. During that period, I wasn't writing, but I was learning harmony. I was listening to R&B and Soul singers like Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield and to Country singers like Jerry Lee Lewis, Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty, Sammi Smith, etc.' The Big World beckoned: 'I went to college at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. I spent the summer before I left for school with my brother who was attending Vanderbilt in Nashville. That summer forever changed my life. I was introduced to the music of singer-songwriters like Kris Kristofferson, Jay Bolotin, John Hiatt, etc. I even got a little job playing at a club close to our apartment called 'The House'. I thought I was 'big time' then. I knew what I wanted in life. My passion for music grew.' 'While attending undergrad and later in Dental School at UK, my first wife and I played lots of clubs around town. Our first gig was at a little pizza place called 'La Rosa's'. Doug Jones, my oldest and dearest buddy, was working with us in a trio. It wasn't long before we were packing the place on weekends. 'Outlaw' music was just beginning at the time and we covered Waylon & Willie, Kris & Rita, Cash and Coe songs galore, along with many other artists who were influencing us during those years; real heavyweights like Townes Van Zandt, Mickey Newbury, John Prine, Steve Young, Dave Olney, and Billy Joe Shaver.' 'I began writing again; not very good songs, though we would perform them onstage. We had a little fan base that we could depend on to show up wherever we played. Some of our friends would always be there to enforce a respectful listening environment, 'shushing' the rowdier crowds. We partied hearty during those days.' 'Our best gig ended up being over in Winchester, a place called The Steak House. It was a good paying job and we got our meals free. I remember, their steaks were awesome! We played there for years with a fairly consistent audience. In the summers we would do an early cocktail hour gig at a place called Flaherty's on Southland Drive, then move over to Winchester for the evening Steak House shows. We were making good money at the time,..so good that I almost dropped out of Dental School to devote full time to my music. I knew that music was a lucrative vocation, but I also knew that my heart was trying to over rule my logic at that point in my life. My parents wouldn't bless that decision anyhow, so I came up with a plan. I would go ahead and finish school and become a dentist. Then, when I was financially able, I'd return to the music. That way I would never have to rely fully on music for money and my music could always be totally free.' 'Through the years I've continued to play. In fact I often tell people my vocation is music and my hobby is dentistry. I started writing songs seriously only about ten years ago. I stumbled onto a few good songs, which re-launched my musical career. Of course, I've been singing in churches since I was young and I have continued to do that.' Doc Barker has also used his dental practice and Christian heart to befriend, assist and generally 'hang' with a handful of the world's great singer-songwriters. 'Over the last two decades, I've become good friends with several of my heroes,... living legends like Mac Gayden, Steve Young, Lee Clayton, Tom Pacheco, Mickey Newbury, Dave Olney, Mark Germino, Michael Smith, Chris Gantry, Richard Dobson, Vince Bell and others.' Doc Barker's exceptional first CD of songs, 'The Dream', pays vibrant tribute to the influence of (and his friendship with) several legendary musical heroes/friends, some whose talents are tastefully donated. It also resonates with the soul of this living legend whose creative gifts and unique personality have endeared him to and made him one of the living Kings of Song. As he has aspired, Doc Barker has become. At knife-point, I'd describe him as a mixture of 'Doc' Holliday, the Rev. Billy Graham and Cowboy Jack Clement. Like those other singular characters, his legend will only grow with the passage of time. ©2004, Mark Barker - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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