Lived in Birmingham, AL

Blues Vocals, Harmonica, Sax

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

 the famous unknowns

The Famous Unknowns circa 1995 from the left Victor Lukenbaugh, Tony Spinner, and Jerry Bone. Mark Sallings in front.

Date of Birth: April 11, 1952

Place: Searcy Arkansas

Mark Sallings has been performing since he was 14 years old and has performed non-stop since. He began with a small local band, playing clubs along the"Chitlin Circuit", in clubs like The White Swan where BB King and Albert King put down their licks as they traveled the Blues Highway.

Mark spent years in the recording and music industry in Memphis, working with many of the studios and developing his own musical style. It wasn't until 1990 that he put together the band that is now sailing into the charts nationwide. The Famous Unknowns was a tongue in cheek poke at his years of being known as a great sax and harp man. The Famous Unknowns were the first house band at BB Kings in Memphis.

Since their first gig in 1990 The Famous Unknowns have been steadily rising in popularity. Recording for Vent Records, his third CD, "Talkin To Myself" was released in October, 1997.

Early influences in Mark Salling's life help make him the musician he is today.

Ronnie Hawkins Baby Sat Mark Ronnie Hawkins, (Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, and The Band) used to live at Brashears, Arkansas, just outside of Combs, Arkansas where Marks's mother grew up. Ronnie dated Mark's aunt Sue, his mother's sister and Ronnie and Sue would babysit for Mark. Mark remembers sitting on Ronnie's lap and listening to him play harmonica.

Sallings and Claude Garner One of the earliest influences in Mark's life was a man named Claude Garner. He lived just a few miles from Mark's home in McCrory, Arkansas. Claude Garner played the harmonica on The Grand Ole Opry in the 40's and 50's and was an important figure in the local community. One night Mark went to see Mr. Garner play at a local music show and while waiting for him to go on he was sitting around back stage picking around on an old guitar. After listening to him for a while Garner told him "Why don't you learn to play something else besides the guitar". Mark was already playing the sax and clarinet so why not harmonica, too. They did eventually get to play harmonica together, even if it was on the front porch of Mr Garner's home years later. Claude Garner passed away on October 1, 1997 at 88 years of age: he was still playing the harmonica.


mark thomas sallingsDeath: Feb. 25, 2009

Mark Thomas Sallings was born near Helena, Arkansas. He picked up the nick name "Mighty Oak" along the way. Sallings began playing the harp professionally at age 14, and worked in Memphis as a session player with Stax Records right out of high school.
As a journeyman musician, Sallings performed with the Coon Elder Band and as part of country star David Lynn Jones' band during the 1980s, appearing in three of Jones' music videos. Sallings formed his Famous Unknowns band in the early-90s, performing across the country at club dates and festivals. Sallings, also, made frequent appearances at the Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival through the years.

Sallings recorded two albums with the Famous Unknowns – "Let It Be Known" in 1996 and "Talkin' To Myself" a year later – as well as a solo album, "Temporary Life", which was released in 2005. Sallings also performed on legendary Memphis producer Jim Dickinson's 2006 album "Voodoo Tiger".

Endorsed by Hohner Harmonics and widely considered in the industry as one of the best Delta-style harp players, Sallings was also a talented saxophone and piano player. A familiar presence on the thriving Arkansas blues scene.

Mark Sallings tragically died in a two-vehicle accident while driving to a casino gig in Tunica, Mississippi. Mark Sallings will be missed by his many fans, both at home and overseas.

Mark Sallings recorded only one CD as a group entity, with The Famous Unknowns, titled: Up Close and Personal. Shortly after the release of the CD, The Famous Unknowns disbanded and Mark embarked upon a solo career, performing as front man for his own band: "Mark Sallings and The Famous Unknowns." In 1995 he was signed to Vent Records out of Birmingham, Alabama, where he recorded his first solo CD as simply, Mark Sallings titled: Let it Be Known. Let it Be Known was followed by another solo CD on the Vent label, titled: Talkin' to Myself. Vent Records shut down at the end of 1999. Mark went on to record and independent project, titled: Temporary Life


More info:

Video: Mark Sallings and The Famous Unknowns. Live! At Desperado's In Jonesboro Arkansas. 08-25-1996.


Amazon: Mark Sallings

mark sallings albums


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