Mark Newton has been a familiar face in country, bluegrass, and Americana music for decades. The guitar and mandolin player honed his chops during the 1970s and ‘80s in several groups, including Knoxville Grass, formed in 1976. The band released five albums during Mark’s time with the band, including Painted Lady in 1982. Then Mark joined Heights of Grass before founding The Virginia Squires (1984-1989), which included Rickie and Ronnie Simpkins and Sammy Shelor.
After The Virginia Squires, Mark set off on a solo career that brought him critical and commercial success. He has performed across the USA and a six-week tour in Europe, The Caribbean, Japan, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Iceland, and Alaska for the US Department of Defense entertaining the US troops. Mark has performed at the White House and Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, for the Carter, Clinton, and Bush Sr. administrations.
In 1990, he founded The Mark Newton Entertainment Agency, managing artists. Throughout the years, his agency handled many artists who became household names quickly. In 1993, Mark co-founded the esteemed Graves Mountain Music Festival in Syria, VA., which grew to be one of the largest festivals of its kind in the world.
Mark released numerous albums on Rebel Records, including his first solo project in 1998, Living a Dream, pairing him with many of his early musical influences, including Ralph Stanley, Bill Emerson, Paul Williams, Tony Rice, John Starling, and Mike Auldridge. It also put Mark in a studio setting with some of his most talented contemporaries, including Dudley Connell, Jerry Douglas, Alan O’Bryant, Don Rigsby, IIIrd Tyme Out, Sammy Shelor, and Rickie and Ronnie Simpkins.
His second Rebel Records album, Follow Me Back to the Fold: A Tribute to Women in Bluegrass, released in 2000, featured Mark with a host of bluegrass leading ladies: Gloria Belle, Dale Ann Bradley, Louisa Branscomb, Gena Britt, Kathy Chiavola, Kim & Barb Fox, Sally Jones, Laurie Lewis, Claire Lynch, Lynn Morris, Missy Raines, Kristin Scott, Valerie Smith, Rhonda Vincent, and Sharon and Cheryl White. The closing track, which was also the album’s title, was written in honor of one of the first ladies of country music, Maybelle Carter. The album went on to win the 2001 IBMA Recorded Event of the Year Award.
Three projects credited to the Mark Newton Band soon followed. Charlie Lawson’s Still, released in 2001, highlighted a set of mostly newer songs by contemporary songwriters (Becky Buller, Tim Stafford, Troy and Amanda Engle) and esteemed songsmiths Tom T. and Dixie Hall. A few bluegrass classics were also included for good measure, notably Buzz Busby’s “Lost” and the Morris Brothers’ “Somebody Loves You, Darling.” Mike Munford on banjo, Troy Engle on mandolin, and Bob Goff on bass provided expert musical backing.
Mark is also an accomplished producer. He developed the concept for Follow Me Back to The Fold: A Tribute to Women in Bluegrass, which won the 2001 IBMA Recorded Event of the Year Award. He also participated on the album Knee Deep In Bluegrass, the Acutab Sessions, which won the 2001 IBMA Instrumental Album of the Year Award.
In 2002, Mark was recognized by Bluegrass Unlimited as making a difference and helping music on a national and international level.
The Mark Newton Band’s second release on Rebel Records in 2003 was called No Boundaries, and was touted as a “marvelous collection of contemporary bluegrass” that kept a mindful eye towards tradition. As before, songwriters Becky Buller and Tom T & Dixie Hall contributed fresh, vibrant material for the project. Other great songs also came from Tim O’Brien and Randall Hylton. The Mark Newton Band won the 2003 IBMA Emerging Artist of the Year Award the same year.
By the time of the release of the third Mark Newton Band album, Hillbilly Hemingway, in 2006, the group had new members, including Clay Hess on guitar, Andy Ball on mandolin, Beth Lawrence on bass, and John Wheat on banjo. Producer Carl Jackson called in a few extra players, such as fiddler Stuart Duncan, Rob Ickes, and Randy Kohrs on resonator guitar, and Tony Creasman on percussion. Jackson was a co-writer of the album’s title song, which is a tribute to country music legend Hank Williams, and two other pieces on the disc. The album was nominated for the 2007 IBMA Album of Year Award and took home the IBMA Best Graphic Design Award that year.
For many years, Mark produced the IBMA Fan Fest main stage in Louisville, Kentucky, and later, when the event moved to Nashville, Tennessee. He coordinated over 40 acts that performed at the annual week-long convention, helping to raise thousands of dollars for the musician fund for musicians who have no insurance or may be down and out and need financial support.
In 2013, Pinecastle Records released the album Reborn, by Mark Newton and Steve Thomas. They share lead vocals on the album, with Newton also on guitar and Thomas on mandolin, fiddle, guitar, and Dobro.
During his career, Mark has been featured on the cover and in articles of multiple national magazines such as Billboard, Bluegrass Unlimited, Bluegrass Now, and others.
Most recently, Mark fortunately recovered from two transplant surgeries and is now getting back to performing. “Hopefully my story will inspire transplant patients or individuals to know there’s hope that if they keep a positive mental approach the human spirit can overcome anything. Music has been my life and now after 23 months of recovery my voice is strong, my stamina and energy are back. I’m very blessed to have a second chance in like,” said Mark. “Nashville has been my home for 22 years and I have the good fortune to be a part of this musical community that means a lot to me, but I’ve been very blessed that musical community has prayed and show their support in addition to national and international community.”