Mark Menikos

Soft-spoken Banter

Mark has been playing violin since age 9 and professionally since age 15. He performs in all styles, has recorded extensively and composed music in all styles, including film and dance scores.

As a sophomore in high school, Mark grew out his beard (sic) and started playing Country/Western and bluegrass in bars on Fort Worth's Northside area. In those days, it was not as now. 'nuff said.

Over the years he has played in numerous local country groups:

  • Dick Thompson and All Sorts Of Thrills
  • Showdown
  • The Cactus Cowboys
  • That Damn Band From Texas
And performed with country legends Ray Price and Johnny Gimble, as well as bluegrass fiddle grand-master Marc O'Connor.

In the area of Jazz, Mark says his only real violin influence was the reknowned master Stéphane Grapelli. He prefers swing and funk and generally excludes the period in the 50's and 60's that for most people is synonymous with jazz. Bands he has played with include:

  • The popular vocal swing phenomenon of the '70's, The High Time Octet.
  • Kings In Exile, an experimental jazz group in Dallas, which (under the direction of Dennis Gonzales) had several live shows, radio broadcasts, and recorded an LP on the DAAGNIM label.
  • Trio Blanc, of which Mark is a founding member, along with Rex Bozarth on bass and Kim Platko on guitar — both from Dallas. Trio Blanc does the hot instrumental swing of the 20's, 30's, and 40's, and is still an active part of Mark's musical life.
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Some lengthy involvements in other groups deserve special mention. . .

In 1975 Mark and Dallas-based guitarist Skip SoRelle formed the jazz-rock fusion group Aurora. Primarily original music, but drawing on the influences of Chick Corea, Weather Report, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Aurora took Texas by storm. The band's drummer was Brothers 3 percussionist Martin McCall. Aurora had the honor of sharing the stage with several jazz legends:

  • guitarist Larry Coryell
  • bassist Miroslav Vitous, from Weather Report
  • drummer Alphonse Musón

In the early 80's Mark joined the Dallas "country & eastern music" group The Beledi Ensemble, with which he played for about seven years altogether. Beledi (as it was also known) was formed by brothers Jamal and Buddy Mohamed on percussion and bass, respectively, and included drummer/ percussionist Ken Grimes. This unusual and virtuosic band played experimental and improvisational music heavily flavored with Arabic, Indian, African, and Greek music, and has a fascinating history with many accomplishments far too numerous to mention here. Jamal and Buddy both released excellent CDs in 1999. Jamal's recording is called B E L E D I, and Buddy's (which features Mark on some of the tracks) is called American Bedouin.

Around 1984, Mark joined the established local Irish band Rakish Paddy, when their fiddler Kim left. Taken under their collective wings, all of Mark's preconceptions about Celtic music were shattered and he became indoctrinated into the realities of this vibrant folk idiom. Many years later, he is still learning. Rakish Paddy later reformed as The Lost Tribe, which gradually lost members until it was down to Mark and multi-instrumentalists John Delaney and John Burleson. In 1989, Mark had to leave due to personal difficulties occuring in his life. As most of you know, The Lost Tribe became one of Texas' best-known and well-loved Celtic bands, and released a wonderful CD, "A Bonnie Wooden Witch". Sadly, due to its members being spread widely over the entire country, The Lost Tribe is no more.

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Around 1985, Mark met the members of the Dallas-based progessive rock band Prism. He later joined a newly-reorganized version of the group that was named Hands. Reminiscent of Gentle Giant, Kansas, and Genesis, Hands had a profound impact on the local music scene. Two CDs of old recordings — Hands, and Palmistry — along with a recently-released "reunion" CD, Twenty-five Winters, attest to this.

Mark performed at Scarborough Faire for many years where he met Peggy Turner, Jim Brunke, and Bobby Bush of Sungarden (later renamed Threadneedle St). He started playing with them as a substitute fiddler as their regular — Howard Harkness — became increasingly busy due to his day job. Mark continued to play with Threadneedle St until the launching of Brothers 3. Jim and Peggy are founding members of the SCMA and along with Bobby are definitely three of the best-known and well-established folk musicians in Texas. Along with classically-trained violinist/fiddler Melina Wilkins, Threadneedle St continues perform all around the country and have recently released their first CD, Havin' a Tune.

In addition to his lengthy and sometimes bewildering performance career, Mark has some accomplishments as a composer:

  • He has written music for both the TCU and SMU modern dance and ballet departments.
  • He composed The Sounds of Space, a suite of synthesized music, for a travelling exhibit of space technology that toured the USA.
  • Many of the compositions in the above-mentioned group Aurora were written by Mark.
  • He composed music for a multimedia show put on at the Meyerson in Dallas.
  • He contributed source music and performed on the sound track for the film Lone Wolf McQuade, starring Chuck Norris.
  • Though there is generous and welcome input from the rest of the band members, Mark is primarily responsible for the arrangements of all of Brothers 3's material.