Born in Hammersmith and raised in nearby Ealing, west London, Mark Derek is a Country Music Historian who specialises in the Traditional & Neo-traditional styles.


No stranger to the ‘world of entertainment’, Mark drew musical influence from his father, one of Britain’s most admired country music vocalists and entertainers – Jon Derek.


Mark is a journalist and former professional singer. Known for his keen and vibrant association with country music, Mark oversees his late father's website, and all matters relating to his musical legacy. 


Mark says: When my father passed away in 2011 - renowned journalist/publicist, Tony Byworth paid tribute to him by saying:


"Country Music has never been a dominant force in the British entertainment scene and achievement for home-grown artists, even less so. There has only been a handful to have scored any sort of acknowledgement outside of the genre but Jon Derek certainly ranks among those elite few. In fact, he stands head and shoulders above the majority enjoying success as a singer, musician, songwriter and innovator." 


It's hard to believe that since Tony wrote those words, Country Music has evolved beyond belief. Or has it? For the first time in its history, we now have some British acts making it in this genre of music and gaining mainstream chart success - and we have a younger generation of fans seeing it as 'hip and trendy'. But is this really country? Although I have the respect for these groundbreaking artists - the music they, and their fellow counterparts represent is not what many of us traditionalists would associate as country music. In my opinion, today's country sound is just way too modern for me, and leans more towards a pop/rock influence. I need to hear those heartfelt lyrics, a country twang and those conventional instruments we have long associated with country music. 


When I was growing up in London, back in the 1980's, it wasn't cool to admit to liking country music. I took a lot of stick at school, and I was often made fun off - other kids used to taunt me with shouts of 'Yee Ha', 'Bang Bang' and 'Giddy Up'. I'm sure, in retrospect, their only recollection of country music would have resembled a scene out of a western movie with a singing cowboy riding off on his horse into the sunset. Nevertheless, labelled as 'different' then, and as frustrating as it was - I'm glad I was never swayed to turn my back on a music genre which has ingrained my well-being with a deep respect and love for country music, that to this day has never left me. 


My first musical love was 'country music' and my childhood heroes were the traditional icons of the trade. I started off listening to the likes of; George Jones, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Charley Pride etc. and then singled out Randy Travis and Ricky Skaggs among my favourites of the current era - the late 80s. All these artists had a profound impact on me. They sang songs based on real life, real love and real loss. Country music went through a revamp in the early to mid-1980's, but what it didn't lose was its identity. Fortunately, after seeing off the 'Urban Cowboy' fad, which really messed things up for a while with its mechanical bulls, country discos and line-dancing - the 'Neo-traditional' movement brought vitality and prosperity. With the emergence of such heavyweights as Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, George Strait, Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood, I think from the offset, we all knew the 1990’s was going to be an incredible era in the history of country music – a golden period in which I often look back on and believe will never be emulated. What was coming out of the US back then was extraordinary. Those consummate songwriters in Nashville’s Music Row were producing hit after hit for a number of major recording artists who all had their own unique sound and persona. My country music collection was soaring at a rate of knots! 


As a Country Music Historian, my knowledge spans from the early roots right up until the turn of the millennium. By my late teens, I was already referred to as a 'country music buff' by the industry's dignatories. I used to live and breathe country music. However, I more or less gave up listening to what Nashville had to offer around about 2010 when the sounds of a fiddle and a steel guitar all but disappeared into obscurity. What I hear by chance now is more often than not quite disheartening. It's like scraping the barrel these days for a decent country song. There was a time you could identify with every country singer you heard on the radio - they had their own unique sound, but this 'so called' new breed of artists, all sound very similar. I think Nashville is playing it very safe. A lot of today's country songs are lacklustre and tacky. The majority seem to be all about Bud Light, pick-up trucks, partying, getting drunk, going wild etc. - although some may say this is in keeping with the times. Country music has changed significantly since the 1990s (a truly memorable decade). I would love to see Nashville return to its roots.