For MerleFest fans who crave a weekly dose of festival news and music, WNCW is teaming with MerleFest to present the MerleFest Radio Hour, an hour-long weekly show of live performances, album tracks and an interview segment with artists who have played at MerleFest. The show will debut on Sunday, July 5, from 6-7 p.m. EST on WNCW.
MerleFest’s Steve Johnson and musician Mark Bumgarner will co-host the show, highlighting the history of MerleFest artists while touching on what happens behind the scenes. It will also regularly feature the music of Doc and Merle Watson. In fact, the purpose of the MerleFest Radio Hour is to promote the music of MerleFest and to preserve the memory of Doc, Merle and RosaLee Watson.
“We have developed the MerleFest radio show as a way to stay connected with our fans and artists throughout the year. We’ll bring music from MerleFest to the listeners and as well as offer a glimpse into the behind-the-curtain aspects of the festival, including interviews and stories from those who have performed at or played a key role in developing the festival. It is sure to be a fun hour of music, moments and memories,” said Johnson.
During the inaugural show Johnson and Bumgarner will share their own MerleFest experiences, both as fans and professionals. They will also offer insight into the development of the MerleFest Radio Hour. The next episode on July 12 will feature an interview with “B” Townes, the man who worked directly with Doc Watson to create The Eddy Merle Watson Memorial Festival, now called MerleFest. Townes served as the first director of MerleFest. The conversation with Townes will continue on July 19.
Mark Bumgarner is a son of the South whose musical influences span the American landscape, from the traditional sounds of the Appalachian Mountains to West Coast country and folk rock sounds of the ‘60s and ‘70s. These influences and his own sense of musical direction have guided Mark as a musician, singer, songwriter and now radio host and producer. Over the last 30 years, Mark has performed with several national and regional touring bands, including the Nashville-based Jubal Foster. Since returning to Western North Carolina in 2005, he has worked primarily as a solo artist and as half of the duo Calico Moon with his wife Aimee Bumgarner. In addition to producing and co-hosting the MerleFest Radio Hour, he is currently working on his third full-length album project, which is due out later in 2015.
Steve Johnson, co-host of the MerleFest Radio Hour, works as artist relations manager for MerleFest. Prior to joining MerleFest, Johnson was the president and CEO of Mountain Music Entertainment, an artist management and publicity firm with offices in Nashville and Jonesborough, Tennessee. He also produced the award-winning Historic Jonesborough (TN) Bluegrass Series and has promoted several concerts and events across the country. He grew up in the shadows of bluegrass music with his musical family and close family friend, Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass Music. He was first influenced by musicians like Monroe, Kenny Baker, Jimmy Martin, Ralph Stanley and Don Reno to name a few. Johnson has been active in a variety of not-for-profit organizations, and he has served on several non-profit boards, including the Music Crossroads Steering Committee for the City of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Opera Board of Trustees. He recently served as a board member for the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Tennessee. In his leisure time, Steve enjoys performing with an Asheville, N.C.-based bluegrass band and attending music festivals.
MerleFest Radio Hour airs on WNCW from 6-7 p.m. EST. WNCW broadcasts from 88.7 FM in Spindale with translators in Charlotte 100.3 FM, Greenville 97.3 FM and Boone 92.9 FM and simulcasting on Wilkesboro’s WSIF 90.9 FM. A live stream of the show will be available at wncw.org/listen-live