Episode 27: With Mark B (On Life as a Musician and Educator, Growing Up in the Church, Surviving San Francisco’s Ups and Downs and a Bit of Belgium)

Mark’s band

To hear the interview, while reading this post!

Welcome back to Jonah Asks!

Meet Mark, a thoughtful and funny gentleman who is dedicated to music and schools. In this episode, Mark talks about growing up with religion, life travels from Virginia to Arkansas to the Bay Area, life on the road as a touring musician, and San Francisco over the last two decades. We talk about political activism, religious hypocrisy, education, creativity and more.

To check out the Pine Box Boys online, visit their site.


“Will You Remember Me?” Pine Box Boys (Mark’s band)

Jonah introduces Mark to the concept of the podcast.

Mark: “We’re always escaping the floodwaters, but we have a responsibility to help those that haven’t yet.”


Finding Music: Lester T. Raww is born

First guitar when Mark was 13. Grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia. College in Arkansas, playing parties, making solid money. Moved with buddies to Little Rock, Arkansas. Autistic man at the shows, yelling out “Let’s rock!” at the beginning. Lester T. Raww was born. A stage persona.

Five years later, the band broke up, wife’s newspaper folded.

Q. “Where should we move?”

Narrowed it down to San Francisco and New Orleans. Mark’s wife was done with the humidity. They ended up in San Francisco in 2004. They’ve been living in the same rent-controlled apartment since 2005.


San Francisco City Changes: Open-Mics

Mark has gone to open-mics in San Francisco for years. He discusses how the changing scene of the open-mics has reflected a changing city.

Mark recommends Herbert Asberry’s “The Barbary Coast”


Protest Movements

Black Lives Matter protest on the street.

Not much in San Francisco. Stronger in Seattle, Portland and Oakland.

Fifty-two year-old Lester Raww is different from 35 year-old Lester. Having to adapt to my age and station in life. Knowing that certain things I do may impact my job as a principal.”


Activism Takes Many Forms

As an public high school administrator, Mark helped with food distribution through the public schools during the pandemic.


Mark sings “Knoxville Girl”

Mark’s mom grew up in rural Alabama. They had an outhouse. Eight brothers and sisters. They picked cotton from a young age to help. History of the murder ballad. Mark wrote about the musical tradition’s history in college. Originally from the British isles.


Growing up in Republican and Religious Household

The Church of Christ — no music allowed

“I grew up in a household where Reagan was tantamount to Jesus coming back to Earth and Nixon had gotten a bum ride. By the time my dad had gotten out of the Navy, he determined that his government had lied to him.”

Mark’s dad: used to call his old buddies Walmart Republicans — ‘They get their political opinions right off the shelf.” Mark’s mom was secretly progressive


Education and Equality as a Teacher — Working Against Racism


Being a Touring Musician — Hitting 40

Finding balance with teaching and music. Touring the Netherlands and Belgium. Two-hundred shows in one year. Three shows in a day. Mark was able to stay connected to teaching with subbing and then a long-term substitute position.

Jonah can’t remember the Belgian beer he used to love and hasn’t had in a while. Chimay!

“With four of us on the road, getting two queen size beds for the four. You stay on your side!”

Mark loves the film Spinal Tap.

Inside Llewyn Davis


Education and Creativity go hand-in-hand.

Work-life balance. Mark does his impression of Tom Waits in “The Fisher King.”


Ending: John Prine “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness”

To hear the interview:

Jonah Hall makes Jonah Asks, a podcast about being human. Conversation-interviews with friends and friends of friends about how to live on Earth in 2020.