Mark began taking guitar lessons
at age eleven in El Monte, California. He was thirteen years
old when this shy songwriter to be, played his first professional
gig with a pick-up band, which involved reading sheet music
from a Hawaiian songbook with a slide guitar on his lap. It
was at someone's house in San Marino, California alongside
their big swimming pool and lavish Luau.
But during the following five
years his musical tastes drifted to Jug Band music. This led
to his memorable second and third professional gigs with the "Mound City Blue Blowers"; a debutant's ball in Pasadena California,
then on to the Ashgrove, a folk nightclub in Hollywood, as
an opening act for the blues duo, Brownie McGee and Blind
But wanderlust and new experiences
soon led him to Berkeley, then on to New York City where Mark
landed his first recording contract with Moses Asch and Folkways
Records. The same two albums are now available on CD's with
Smithsonian Folkways. A single, not on either albums, was
recorded and became a hit in Canada. It is entitled, "Walkin'
'Round town" with "Mark and the Two Timers."
Mark went on to play various
clubs, folk festivals and concerts including Newport, Big
Sur, Carnegie Hall Hootenanny; and to tour both coasts, Europe
and Canada. But he says, "something was missing. I couldn't
see myself living on the road and raising a family. And I
really wanted a family."
Nevertheless, while settling
down, Mark went on to record two albums for Elektra Records,
one for Columbia, and one for Fantasy. Two albums were recorded
and never released; one for Kicking Mule Records, and a self
produced album recorded in Nashville of traditional Gospel
tunes. An album of original gospel songs was released, sold
out, and is soon to be repackaged and sold at Mark's concerts.
It is entitled, "Gospel Trucker."
Sixteen day jobs later Mark
can look at his children and grandchildren and say that it
was well worth it. He couldn't have been on the road and been
their for his family too. But now "the road" beckons again
and Mark sees the opportunity as a gift. "Now I have no need
to compete to be recognized; now I can just enjoy playing
and singing. I am fortunate that I can still do it and have
fun doing it."
In the early days, Mark usually
had just one guitar. It was sometimes a 12 string and sometimes
a six. Now he plays three: An old rosewood Gianinni 12-string
tuned to open G down to C#; a brand new Gibson 12-string tuned
standard down to C#; and a Guild D-30 tuned regular and to
On February 25th, 2007, my father, Mark Spoesltra, passed away here in his lovely but modest home in the Sierra Foothills of California. There was snow on the ground and we could see the trees which surround the house like sentinals sway with the force of another approaching storm. We held him as he left us and I know he had no fear and felt no pain, and even though his life was cut short he found the strength to tell each of us he loved us. I will miss him greatly.
Joshu Spoelstra (and on behalf of the family)
February 25th, 2007