Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, Mark showed an early interest in music when he started to play the drums at the age of 7. In his teens, his interests turned to the electric bass after attending a Parliament/Funkadelics concert and watching bassist Bootsy Collins do his thing.
At 14, Mark met several members of the Return To Forever band, including Stanley Clarke. Clarke suggested that Mark continue his electric bass studies, but also recommended that he learn to play the acoustic bass. Within a few weeks of that meeting, Mark purchased his first acoustic bass from famed St. Louis bassist Billy Houston, the uncle of Tom and Dick Smothers! Having taken his advice, Mark wrote to Stanley Clarke to inform him that he had purchased an acoustic bass. To Mark's amazement, Stanley began to correspond and send musical exercises!
Mark soon began performing with many of St. Louis' finest musicians - Saxophonist Freddie Washington, vocalist Mae Wheeler, pianist Peanuts Whalum (the uncle of Kirk Whalum), trumpeter David Hines, vocalist Ralph Butler as well as pianists Mary Tatum (daughter of Art Tatum) and Johnny Johnson (pianist for Chuck Berry).
Though Mark worked most steadily with Freddie Washington (a quartet which also featured a young Peter Martin on piano), it was his association with Johnny Johnson that would teach him the importance of providing a solid and supportive bass line. That teaching was also reinforced by many nights of watching the great ragtime tuba player Red Lehr, pianist Jeannie Kittrell, bassist Billy Houston and banjo player John Becker perform on the riverboat Robert E. Lee, moored on the Mississippi River in downtown St. Louis.