By Lisa Morgan
Mark Gregg has become a music staple here in the desert, both as a solo performer under his own name, or as Dude Jones, the rocking band that keeps the rooms where they play dancing into the wee hours of the morning. Singing since he was a teenager, brought up in roadhouses singing for his supper, Mark has always been fascinated and affected by music. “Even if I didn’t understand the lyrics as a child, the music often made me feel I did understand somehow. I can’t separate any part of my life from music.” It would appear that he will never have to. Mark has shared the stage with a number of well-known artists including Robert Plant and Jason Bonham of Led Zeppelin, Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister, Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray and so many others. But it’s perhaps a newer local artist with whom Mark shares the stage and spotlight with from time to time, that provides he and audiences alike with the most powerful kind of inspiration ~ his son, Derek Jordan Gregg.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, that Mark and his son, Derek Jordan Gregg were reunited full time, having been raised by his mother in Oregon. But once Derek found his way here to the desert, Mark and he discovered they shared way more than just a zip code.
Derek: “I’d just gotten fired from a job in Oregon. I was just feeling stagnant. I felt like I could never be appreciated for more than being a dishwasher in a local restaurant. I called my dad and he was actually glad that I got fired. He said, ‘Great. You should come out here. You need to be making money as a musician anyway.’ He has always let me find myself as a musician, and then even brought me in on some high profile gigs.”
In regard to his new found relationship with his father, Derek shared, “It wasn’t any work. You see a lot of families struggle to connect with each other. That wasn’t us. It was very easy. We have similar tastes and ideas. He didn’t instill these in me…it was just in my blood. In some ways, I got along more easily with my dad than I did with my mom who raised me. We’re best friends. We talk to each other like we’ve known each other our whole lives. It used to drive my mom nuts,” Derek chuckled, “the way I would walk or pace when I was on the phone was so much like my dad. Even when it came down to the things I like to eat. I wasn’t conditioned in any way. The same goes for music. I would put on one of the songs off an album while we were just sitting and enjoying each other’s company, and my dad would say, ‘That album is pure gold’ not knowing it was my favorite of all time. We both have undressed some of the same songs so many times we end up having really unique conversations about them. So many times in relationships, the other person is just waiting for their opportunity to talk and be heard. That’s not how it is with us. We just cherish and respect each other words. It creates a strong foundation for friendship.”
“We played together at the Tilted Kilt a while back, and that was fantastic. We did some cool dual guitar stuff and harmonies. At one point I was able to swing my guitar around on my back and just approach the audience like a front man. We’re always open to play together, and we do a duet acoustic thing every now and again when we can. My dad is featured on my new album coming out. He’s done some cool work on our tracks. He just ‘gets’ it. It’s not like he tries to put his own thing into it. He knows what we’re trying to do, and he adds some very cool stuff.”
“I am proud that he’s my dad, but I’m just as proud that he’s my best friend.”
Mark: “Derek had come here a couple of years earlier and that was a little awkward, as it was towards the end of my marriage and it was a little tense in our house. When he came after my divorce, it was perfectly natural and our home was fairly peaceful. He got a lot of songwriting done in a very short time. Derek and I share a mind.”
In regards to his son’s talent and upcoming album, Mark said pointedly, “I don’t fully know the extent of Derek’s talent yet. It’s very deep. He has not yet met his true peers. His album is my favorite record this year, and this is just rough mixes at this point. I’m very proud to have been asked to contribute some guitar parts on a couple of songs. Everyone who has heard it is blown away. It is going to change everything for him.”
Happy to be part of a project he thinks so highly of, Mark shared, “I added some seagull sounds to my favorite song named Velvet Flowers. Also, I did some psychedelic ebow slide with long echoes. I also played some blues licks on another track. I may add more if they call me back!”
What does this father hope for his son’s music career? “You know, the usual. First, the record goes multi-platinum, then a string of hit records in which our syndicate figures out the new pay paradigm for recording artist and corners the market with all new artists. Then drug addiction and rehab and some uplifting autobiographies thanking God or something,” he said chuckling, less serious about the latter details than the first.
“We get calls for the two of us to play together sometimes. We love playing together. I’m focused on paying for braces for Angus (Derek’s younger brother), and Derek is focusing on The Hive Minds record and writing and rehearsing the show. I’d actually like to come on board with them for a bit as a sort of stage producer to make sure their shows have maximum impact with lighting and pacing and such. Also to make sure the guitars stay in tune! Maybe they might invite me up to shred on a song or two. I do a mean Sweet Home Alabama,” he said once again breaking up the seriousness with humor, consummate entertainer that he is.
I would not be too surprised, if the Coachella Valley will one day be treated to yet another Gregg virtuoso, braces and all. Apparently, 12 year old Angus Gregg has started playing guitar and drums and is a complete Zeppelin freak. Until then, I promise that any time spent in the presence of these two troubadours will be returned in heart-loads of inspiration and quality good times.
Derek was nominated for “Best New Band” and “Best Duo” for Hive Minds at the 2014 CV Music Awards and Mark was nominated for “Best Cover Band” for Dude Jones.
You can see Derek and his band The Hive Minds this Friday, August 1st, at Schmidy’s Tavern in Palm Desert from 9 PM to Midnight (Corner of Fred Waring and Hwy 111). Follow Derek and The Hive Minds at www.facebook.com/thehiveminds or www.hivemindsmusic.com
Mark will be performing with the newest Dude Jones lineup at Sullivan’s Steakhouse on Thursdays and Saturdays starting from 6:30 to 11, this Friday at Dillon’s Roadhouse, and Sunday at Pete’s Hideaway in Palm Springs (those shows start at 5 and 6). You can also catch Mark performing at CV Weekly’s Best of Awards Show this Thursday, July 31 from 5-6pm at Emerald Desert Resort.