Photo by PHYLLIS BATOR // Buy this photo
1215 Bald Eagle Drive, Marco
Besides his singing and guitar playing, the first thing that attracted me to Mark Thompson was his curly hair. His hairdo looked like he just rolled out of bed. Oh, to have curls like that and just let them do what they want ... I have to admit I was jealous because my hair is as straight as the nearest broomstick!
Aside from that, Thompson is a cool guy. He’s earthy, loves entertaining by singing and playing an Alvaraz Yairi acoustic electric guitar, whistles only one song — he does play the harmonica, too. Put it all together and the Snook Inn has a rather well-rounded musician entertaining their guests.
So what kind of music does he play? The answer is, anything you want. Just make a request.
Sitting on the deck with the breeze blowing, the sun shining, boats passing by, being able to eat and drink, watching people having a wonderful time outdoors, and listening to good music — really, what more could anyone ask for?
Thompson tends to sound like a few well-known singers such as Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, and Pete Seeger. I knew as soon as I heard him singing a particular song that the voice was familiar, but I couldn’t distinguish which one of the three it might have been. Of course, with all the noise on the deck, it could be difficult to hear true vocal sounds if you’re not sitting in the right spot.
Clearly, he’s a guy who loves what he does. His voice varies sometimes a bit more aggressively than other times depending on the song, and he sure does know how to finger pick on those frets. When he sang “On and On,” among other songs, I couldn’t keep my feet still. Some of the other songs were his originals.
A very personable guy, he said he tries to be a little different than the guy who’s going to be at the Snook Inn at night or the next day.
Asked if he was trained in the guitar, he answered, “I had the obligatory family piano lessons for about 10 to 12 years. The guitar was just something I could teach myself because the fret board of a guitar is basically the keyboard of a piano.”
Thompson doesn’t use background tracks.
“I have a sampler pedal that I use that’s live. In other words, when I’m playing, I’m laying those little pieces down before I’m going to play a solo over it. They’re not background tracks, but live sample tracks,” he stated.
“You have to be able to keep time. It’s just another way of getting away from playing so many harmonica solos. I don’t whistle very well, but I play the harmonica quite a bit,” he continued.
“The technology is there, so I might as well use it. I’m not a track-type of player. I don’t have a set list. Every night or every day is different. I know there are tracks on laptops, but it’s just something I choose not to do.”
Would you believe by watching him play that he’s really into Spanish flamenco guitar? Yes, that is what he listens to. He also listens to lots of blues-based artists from the early years and can’t categorize any one guitar player as his favorite.
A Wisconsin native, Thompson arrived in Marco Island about six years ago and shopped promo packages for gigs. The Snook Inn liked what they heard, and he’s been playing there on and off for about three years.
“I still shop my promo packages every year. My motto is ‘You are only as good as your last job,’ ” he said.
Thompson spends about 10 months a year in Southwest Florida. He rents a house, but visits his family — his wife, son, daughter and grandchild — in Wisconsin whenever he has a few days to spare.
He currently works nine times a week which, he said, is plenty for him, so that doesn’t leave much time for traveling.
Asked if his family would ever move from Wisconsin to Florida, he said he doubted it. They would ultimately like to buy a sailboat and just sail. However, he also stated, “I’m really fortunate after all these years, that I’m able to do something that I like. It’s not very often you play for 30-plus years and still get to do what you want. There are a lot of other things I could be doing, but I’m really happy with what I’m able to do now.”
Thompson is in the process of mastering a CD entitled “Mind Over Matter” which he expects to be ready in the spring. In addition to the Snook Inn, he also plays at Reflections, in Naples at Cabasca’s and Pelican Larry’s, and The Cottage in Fort Myers.
His dates at the Snook Inn are from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. every Sunday for the month of February.
For more information and dates, visit www.myspace.com/markthompsonmusic.
The Snook Inn is located at 1215 Bald Eagle Drive. Reservations are not needed. For further information call 394-3313.