Medical fund established for Kentucky Thunder fiddler Mike Barnett

Family and friends of Mike Barnett, fiddler with Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, have established a medical fund to assist him with expenses related to therapy and rehab following his suffering a cerebral hemorrhage last month.

Not yet a household name in the bluegrass and acoustic music world, Mike was well known among the community of young musicians, both in Nashville and across the US. Barnett first hit our radar in 2012, when he was a student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He turned a good many heads while still in school, and again with the 2014 release of his debut record, One Song Romance CD. That album demonstrated not only a virtuoso’s command of the fiddle, but a terrific knack for writing both songs and tunes, leading us to predict big things in his future.

From there Mike toured and recorded with The Deadly Gentlemen, whose two Rounder albums serve as a testament to the skill and creativity. When Andy Leftwich left Kentucky Thunder, the call went to Barnett, who returned to his hometown of Nashville to accept the new gig. He had remained with Ricky until the recent COVID-19 shutdowns.

A bluegrass boy since his teens, Barnett had also worked with Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys while still in high school, foretelling his career in the music business that far back.

Mike’s doctors believe that he suffered a burst aneurysm in his brain on July 25. Likely the result of a congenital deformity, it caused a severe brain bleed that has required two surgeries to date to remove the blood clots and repair the damaged blood vessel. Things were touch and go for several weeks, but Mike is now awake and responsive, showing the good humor and emotive nature of his personality.

Barnett and his wife, Annalise, are determined to see him reach a full recovery, and return to playing the fiddle again. But there is a long road ahead, which will involve expensive, long-term rehab. He currently has limited speech capability, and movement on the left side of his body is impaired. If all goes well, he is headed tomorrow to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for a minimum of six weeks of treatment and rehab.

We had been watching Mike’s recovery since the early part of August, but with respect to his family’s wishes, had held off reporting until this time.

A GoFundMe goal of $200,000 has been set, which is already a quarter of the way fulfilled. If your heart is touched by Mike’s personal struggle for recovery, please make a donation of any size to this appeal.

Mike Barnett is not only an astoundingly talented musician, but a charming and personable young man. No one deserves a fate such as has come his way, but with the love, support, and prayers of the entire bluegrass community, he has the chance to return to his chosen profession and the quality of life most of us take for granted.

Here is a video of Mike on Music City Roots in 2017 doing the Bobby Hicks classic, Fiddle Patch, with Kimber Ludiker, Dominic Leslie, Jordan Tice, and Sam Grisman.

GoFundMe allows for quick and easy donations to be made using any major credit card or PayPal. Please give what you can.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.