There'll be a memorial on July 2 for Mark Lee, a legendary concert promoter and important figure in Dallas' rock music scene. Lee, a native and resident of Dallas, passed away on June 20; he was 74.
Lee was co-owner of The Hot Klub, the famous 1980s punk rock club which hosted local and international punk, new wave, and reggae bands and helped galvanize the local music scene.
Later, with his concert promotion company 462, Inc., he and his partner Danny Eaton were responsible for bringing hundreds of major acts to Dallas venues such as Bronco Bowl and Trees.
Jeffrey Liles, Artistic Director at The Kessler, worked with Lee and Eaton during the '80s and '90s at Trees and Theatre Gallery.
"I can't tell you how many incredible shows that Mark and Danny brought us during the first three years that Trees was open," Liles says. "Nirvana, Radiohead, Soundgarden, Bob Mould, Swervedriver. What a blessing that he thought to work with us."
"Theatre Gallery, same deal," he says. "Jane's Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, 10,000 Maniacs. And his shows at the Bronco Bowl were legendary: The Smiths, The Cure, The Clash, U2, REM, Echo & the Bunnymen, and more."
"If you ever went to a great show at the Hot Klub, Arcadia Theatre, Bronco Bowl, Trees, Theatre Gallery, or Lakewood Theater, chances are that Mark booked it," Liles says.
Mike Snider, owner of AllGood Cafe, called him "the original concert promoter."
A prodigy, Lee was born on December 13, 1946, and went to Hillcrest High School, but began developing and managing bands such as Kenny and the Kasuals when he was barely out of his teens. He also worked abroad as a rock photographer, as he describes on this WFAA clip.
His involvement in music tracked with the journey of rock 'n' roll, starting in the '60s, through the era of punk rock and beyond.
By the 2000s, he and his wife and partner Linda Lee took over booking of the Lakewood Theater until 2011. It ended up being his finale in the industry.
"He'd already gone back to school to get his master's degree, and he went on to teach and inspire students for years," Linda says. He became an adjunct professor in the Dallas College system, teaching Humanities at El Centro and Eastfield College; he also taught at Lakeview Centennial High School in Garland.
That generosity of spirit made him unique in a field that can sometimes be cut-throat.
Russell Hobbs, owner of The Door, recalls that the "great thing about Mark [was that] he let us put all the cool local Deep Ellum bands on with touring shows at the Bronco Bowl, Arcadia etc. which was instrumental in making those bands have huge followings beyond their local followings."
Randy Murphy, owner of Main Frame Art Service, said that "Mark was also very generous. He helped out countless times with free tickets and passes for local stations KNON and KNTU."
Reid Robinson, owner of Brizo and the Forum Club in Richardson, said that "Mark was such nice guy, somewhat of a rarity in that end of the business," and Phillip Marshall, who worked with Lee doing lighting, said that "In addition to being an absolute legend in the music business here in Dallas, he was an overall nice guy. That is rare. He was a one of a kind."
Tami Thomsen, who works in band management, recalled working with Mark and said that "his impact on Dallas music might have been behind the scenes but it was important nonetheless."
KNON DJ Nancy "Shaggy" Moore said that "If you ever went to the Bronco Bowl to see your favorite punk rock bands in the '80s, you have this man to thank. The Dallas music scene owes Mark Lee tremendous thanks and credit for giving all of us punk kids a chance."
Danny Eaton, his longtime business partner, who now works for Outback Presents, recalls that "Mark and I did literally thousands of shows together starting with Flower Fair in 1968 where tickets were one dollar. We traveled many many miles together and got to know each other about as well as two humans could."
"Mark was really a pretty spiritually aware person and I know wherever his journey is taking him now, he is free as a bird," he says. "As evidenced by all the comments people have made, he shared his profound knowledge freely. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. My heart and sympathy go out to all who loved him especially his wife Linda, daughter Jamie, and brother Gary. Rest in sublime peace, my friend."
The memorial takes place July 2 from 7-10 pm at The Kessler, and is open and free to all. "Mark meant so much to the alternative music community in North Texas, and this will be a great opportunity to pay your respects," the event page says.