Changing South

Changing South: a busker with a backstory

*Watch the video in the player below*

He may well be New Zealand’s oldest busker but what’s Paul Mark’s real claim to fame? Frank Film finds out in Blenheim.

At 88 years of age, Paul Marks may well be New Zealand’s oldest busker. Marks and his trusty guitar can often be seen, and heard, in Blenheim’s town centre.

When Frank Film arrives to record Marks’ performing, he’s singing along to Eric Clapton’s Nobody Knows When You’re Down And Out.

The spritely musician is far from that, though it’s clear none of the onlookers know just who they are listening to.

In the late 1950s and early 60s, Paul Marks was one of Australia’s most famous jazz, folk and blues musicians, credited with influencing a wave of artists, among them Judith Durham of Seekers fame.

Marks’ wife, Eleanor, recalls a traffic officer in Melbourne bringing traffic to a standstill so she and her well-known, musician husband could cross the road.

Eleanor says Marks was in huge demand and, in the evenings, would travel between Melbourne clubs and restaurants performing to sell-out audiences. Marks also made regular appearances on the televised music show, Dave’s Place.

In 1961, Marks travelled to Europe and the United Kingdom with the Melbourne New Orleans Jazz Band but a gruelling schedule took its toll and Marks returned to Australia “totally exhausted”.

He resumed his solo shows in Sydney but over time gradually withdrew from the music scene, eventually settling in New Zealand where he became a popular support act for touring musicians.

In retirement, Marks has never stopped playing or singing, practising for two hours each day.

His busking appearances in Blenheim, where he now resides, are irregular but very much enjoyed by those who stop, listen and appreciate.

*Made with the support of NZ On Air*

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