San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

November 2nd, 2009
Library presents concert with Mark McDade

Blues Artist Mark McDade will be at San Marcos Public Library Tuesday.

STAFF REPORT

The San Marcos Public Library’s monthly concert features blues artists Mark McDade and Jenna Hill. The concert will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, right about when the polls close. Admission is free.

Mark McDade learned to play the harmonica from blues artist Percy Mayfield. Mayfield was a trailblazing blues songwriter. He wrote the song “Hit the Road Jack,” among others, and worked for Ray Charles in the early 1960s, but had fallen on hard times when McDade met him.

Actually, Mayfield was trying to teach McDade to play piano. McDade’s mother longed for him to master an instrument. Mayfield agreed to teach him to play the piano but found the boy was hopeless on the ivories. In desperation, he gave the teen-aged McDade a harmonica and taught him to play it.

In the early 1970s, in Memphis, McDade was given a guitar, learned some chords and started writing blues songs. He began his professional career playing in coffee houses, a venue for which he still retains fondness. He soon attracted the attention local blues artists and became the harp player for the Fieldstones.

After moving to Austin in 1983, Mcdade played harp with a number of musicians, including Jimmy Dale Glimore and Charlie Sexton. He recorded his own songs with Darden Smith, Sarah Brown and David Halley.

Back in Memphis in the n1990s, 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 and did solo guitar shows on Beale Street. He formed a band, The Gray Wolves of Memphis, that played festivals and clubs.

McDade moved to San Marcos in 2005 and kept busy working on his solo album, “Beyond the Delta.” He played a regular gig at the Gray Horse Saloon.

McDade’s musical style is said to be rooted in Missippi Delta Blues and the Texas style of Leadbelly and Blind Lemon Jefferson.

Jenna Hill has a gutsy voice reminiscent of Melissa Etheridge. She learned to sing in her native Oklahoma by listening to gospel and country music.

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