I will be expanding this page and adding more pictures from time to time to fill in the blanks and tell my story as I remember the details and come across more photos and forgotten recordings. This is a work in progress that I will try to keep arranged in chronological order, so check back for updates by scrolling through the timeline. For now, here it is in broad strokes, focusing on my professional music related projects.
I will also be adding a link here later with a parallel Bio detailing Personal, Family and Philosophical matters.
Here’s where it all started for me:
Midwest: The Early Years
Jumping ahead now, the first rock band I played in after a job transfer to Sioux City, Iowa, and learning to play guitar. The Smithland Band (1977):
Rob Harrison became a really good friend and was involved in other projects with me. We were roommates a couple of times, and just seemed to be able to lock into each other’s vibe, musically. We had a lot of great times over the years, and he was one of the kindest, gentle souls you’d ever like to meet. He unfortunately passed away in 2010.
After the Smithland Band, I decided to go solo, singing and strumming my guitar in small town bars and restaurant lounges around Iowa. It was then I decided to adopt the stage name of Mark Peters, mainly because I was on unemployment at the time and didn’t want the state to know about my measly cash income.
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T. Wilson King
Actually, I didn’t do too bad for a novice. It was during this period that I also started collaborating with T. Wilson King, later to become “South Dakota’s King of the Guitar” and ambassador for the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion. The NMM is one of the most renowned institutions of its kind in the world. With more than 15,000 musical instruments, the NMM’s collections are among the best anywhere.
Here is T.W. accepting a “Lucille” from BB King for their collection, and playing a Gibson Korina Explorer they obtained from John Entwistle’s collection.
In 2001 T. W. opened a show for B.B. King at the Orpheum Theater in Sioux City, billed as “An Evening with Kings”
But, we get ahead of ourselves. In the late ’70’s T. Wilson and I teamed up to play a number of shows as a duo, and occasionally with a backing band. Here is Tom’s poster from that era…
…and a pic of us playing a gig outside on the plaza in downtown Sioux City.
Here’s a poster for a show T.W. and I put together with a group we dubbed “SwingShift”…
…and the after-gig aftermath in the basement of our Hill Street house:
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Around late 1978 I went back to Pittsburgh and took a job at Pittsburgh Forgings Co. for about a year (I couldn’t find a picture of the place, and it has since been torn down, but it was similar to the picture below.) It was like being in the belly of the industrial beast, old fashioned with dirt floors and some giant forgings presses with huge flywheels that shook the ground for miles around. They had to shut them down at night, but my heat-treatment crew worked the midnight shift where we pulled glowing hot forgings from the ovens, and occasionally howled at the moon. I think I required the grit and hard work to inform some of the songs I later wrote.
Anyway, that didn’t last long, and before I knew it, I was heading back to Iowa to enroll in a piano tuning, repair and rebuilding/refinishing course at Western Iowa Tech, where I met a few characters who would have a pretty big impact on my life, including my first wife, Debra Lynn Scott, mother of my son Zach.
Here’s a photo with Deb, her daughter Angie, Zach at about 1 year, and Rob Harrison visiting us at a farmhouse we were renting outside Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a couple of years later.
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Jon Todd Greco / Crosswind
Of course there were quite a few musicians in the piano tuning program at WIT, so after hours we were jamming a lot, and soon I was performing in a duo we named “Crosswind” with Jon Todd Greco, a Buffalo NY native, who played flute, mainly, but also mandolin and guitar. We’ve been friends ever since. Here’s a couple of our posters:
We gigged around Sioux City quite a bit, and before I got invited to leave the school (too many late nights and absentees for the early class…however I did have the highest score in the class on my last test), we talked the administration of WIT into putting up the bond money for a concert at the bandshell in Sioux City’s Grandview Park. Ernie Ricehill, a Native American filmmaker who had been coming to our shows, and apparently liked what we were doing, video taped part of it for a documentary he made of us. (Portions of which I will eventually post here.) Here’s an article about it from the Sioux City Journal:
Crosswind expanded into a few different configurations before Todd went back to Buffalo. A pregnant Deb and I followed him there a few months later, but only stayed a few months, and returned to Iowa. (Todd will be reappearing later in this story.) Here’s a picture with the addition of Rob Harrison on sax and Jerry Peterson, congas and other percussion:
Dan Smith, another WIT cohort, who actually went on to tune pianos (he already played them magnificently) sat in with us a few times, and we also played a few gigs as a duo (I hope to find a picture of him, which I will then post) Dan was a great friend and during this period had the best gig in town, playing grand piano in a tux most nights at the Sioux City Hilton Hotel. He helped me with a demo tape I used later, and really turned me on to pop standards and expanded my knowledge of more sophisticated chord progressions:
We lived in a farmhouse outside Sioux Falls, SD, for a while, and had a little studio set up in the basement. Here’s some promo stuff I put together there:
I bounced between Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Sioux City, Iowa for a few years, working various day jobs and gigging nights and weekends whenever I could, usually as a solo, and by this period I had acquired a Tascam PortaStudio (4 track muti-channel cassette recorder) that I would record back-up tracks on and then sing and play the lead parts while performing along with the tape. This was unusual for the time, and I got some pretty nice jobs with that routine, most notably with residencies at a modern architecturally interesting Holiday Inn in Ames, Iowa, and a ski-resort themed restaurant / lounge in Sioux Falls called “The Northlander”. Here is a poster I was using around this time that was designed by my bass-player / graphic artist friend Neil Isaacson, who also played on my demo:
Speaking of Neil Isaacson, he was the bass player in a Bluegrass band called the Rocky Mountain Oysters around this time, and came up with this hilarious promo:
Neil later moved to Oregon with his wife Sue around the time I moved to Sacramento. Zach & I visited them once for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in either 1988 or 1989. We had a blast catching up, but unfortunately kind of lost contact since then. I hope to hear from him again. If you see this, Neil, use the “Contact” link to let me know where you are and how you’re doing.
Then we pulled up stakes and moved our little clan west to Phoenix, Arizona. I had visited my aunt in Tucson a few times, and my grandfather lived in Sun City, a retirement community west of Phoenix, and I had always wanted to come to live in the desert, for a while. I was planning on specializing in the standards I was learning and focusing on appealing to an older clientele, but what with the pressures of trying to support a young family, I mainly spent my Phoenix years working my day job, learning new songs and collecting additional music equipment with precious little performing on the side. As beautiful as the desert was, I really didn’t end up liking Phoenix too much; too hot most of the year, no A/C working in our vehicles, and a marriage on the rocks. After the divorce, an opportunity presented itself in Sacramento, so it was “California, here I come!” I should say “we”, as now I was a single dad with full custody of my 7 year old son, Zach.