San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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September 23rd, 2008
Music at the Library – Memphis Mark McDade

Memphis Mark McDade will perform at the San Marcos Public Library’s monthly concert on Wednesday, October 1 at 7:00 p.m. Everyone is invited to attend this free concert and enjoy McDade’s musical style, rooted in Mississippi Delta blues, and the Texas style of Leadbelly and Blind Lemon Jefferson. He plays on both National steel and electric guitars. Mark learned to play harmonica by playing chords that were hammered out on the piano of the great blues artist Percy Mayfield. His mother yearned for him to learn a musical instrument, and he had encountered Mayfield, who was going through hard times in the late sixties. Mayfield agreed to attempt to teach him to play then discovered his student was hopeless as a pianist. In desperation, he gave the teenager a harmonica and doggedly taught him to play it. His mother’s dream of concert halls and classical music were dashed.

In Memphis, Tennessee in the early seventies, McDade was given a guitar and soon learned the chords to start writing blues songs. He began his professional career by playing in coffeehouses, a venue he still has a fondness for. He soon attracted the attention of local blues artists, and became the harp player for the Fieldstones, a black blues band that played juke joints.

After a move to Austin in 1983, he played harp with a number of artists including Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Charlie Sexton, and recorded his own songs with Darden Smith, Sarah Brown, and David Halley. Back in Memphis in the nineties, he became friends with Mason Ruffner and Kenny Brown, who taught him the rudiments of bottleneck guitar. He played harp in Mississippi casinos in show bands, did solo guitar shows on Beale Street, and formed a band, The Gray Wolves of Memphis, playing festivals and club gigs. Moving to San Marcos in 2005, he has worked on his solo album, Beyond the Delta, and played at the Gray Horse Grill and Saloon.

By ROBIN D. WOOD
San Marcos Public Library

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