MARK Salter, aka Merewether Fats, had a saying that “the blues is sad music, which makes you feel good.”
The Newcastle music community has certainly needed some blues this week following the shock death of Salter from an unknown heart condition on September 14, while he was at a conference in Queenstown, New Zealand, for medical devices company Endotherapeutics. He was 59.
For the past two decades the virtuoso harmonicist has been heavily involved in the local music industry as a performer, a teacher at WEA and the Newcastle Community Art Centre and the organiser of the monthly Merewether Fats Jam.
The Jam started at the Wickham Park Hotel in 2000 and has since found a home at Mayfield’s Stag and Hunter Hotel.
The Stag paid tribute to Salter this week by posting “RIP Mark Merewether Fats” on the hotel’s billboard.
The Jam operated under Salter’s house rules, of no pedals and no British invasion music, and is responsible for establishing numerous acts like Huw Jones, aka Babylegs.
“Mark was on a blues mission to share music in its purest form,” Jones said. “He’s one of those people that through his passion and sharing it with others has opened so many doorways for people to share their passion for music.”
Jones said the Merewether Fats Jam will continue from October 6 “as his legacy and in his spirit.”
Salter grew up in Shortland before moving to Merewether as an adult. He was always involved in music as a performer and then in 2002, after attending a harmonica workshop in Hawaii, he learnt the obscure art of tongue-blocking.
On his return to Newcastle he passed on the tongue-blocking method to his students.
Salter’s wife Jennifer said he particularly loved Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson and Tom Waits.
“I remember him telling me he heard an old blues record and it did something to him,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer said the family have been honoured by the tributes flowing from the music community.
“He was a very private man and I’m kind of amazed how he touched so many people in a personal way,” she said.
Salter is survived by his wife Jennifer and daughters Claire, 27, and Naomi, 5.
His funeral will be held 10am Monday at Pettigrew’s in Hunter Street.