Mark & I were very close friends up until Mark’s death in 1996. We laughed a lot together and loved to jam the blues. Mark was a fine blues guitarist who grew up in East Memphis, down the street from where Sun Studios entrepreneur Sam Phillips lived. He was childhood friends with the Phillip’s children Knox and Jerry. Memphis musician and producer Jim Dickinson who worked for years with Ry Cooder was an old friend of Mark’s and loved his playing, calling his style unique.
Mark and I would sometimes laugh so hard at something I thought I wasn’t going to be able to breathe, let alone stand up. He was considered pretty insane by many people, but I hit it off with Mark the minute we met at John Cipollina’s parent’s house in Mill Valley, around 1970. He traded instruments, guns and anything else that interested him…and he’d quietly clone pot plants for major growers on his little back porch in Mill Valley. Mark had owned the infamous “Red Dog Saloon” in Virginia City…a western style saloon where Janis Joplin and Big Brother, and the Charlatans got their start. The bartenders actually wore six guns, and customers had to check their guns at the door. Mark and I got extremely high one day and played on the sound track of the classic “The Fine Art Of Goofing Off” produced by Sandy Jacobs for K.Q.E.D. Television. We recorded it at Sandy’s home in Mill Valley.
Mark called me one morning saying he’d had incredible chest pain the day before and had to pull his car over to the side of the road. He didn’t call an ambulance but lay there for a while and took a bunch of aspirin. I’d just got through taking a Red Cross course in CPR and it was obvious to me Mark might be in serious trouble; so I set it up for him to go and see my own doctor and told him I’d pay for the visit.
My doctor took one listen to his chest, put him in a wheelchair and called an ambulance. Mark ended up having triple by-pass surgery which kept him alive for many more years until his old lady Joyce woke up one morning to find him dead in a chair in front of the TV.
Joyce gave me a few of his things as mementos…which I still have. I wasn’t able to make his memorial service due to being on the road, but Jeannette and our son Dylan went. Mark always liked Dylan and our daughter Natalie.
One of his friends made up some live brass shotgun rounds with Marks ashes in them instead of buck-shot. He gave them to a few of his closer friends. I still have it sitting in a special cabinet in my studio…perhaps I’ll blast it off over a field of pot someday. — with John Cipollina.