Mark and The Sharks
Mark and The Sharks were formed in 1985 by Mark Toelkes guitar, vocals and percussion, Leonard Gragson lead guitar and vocals, and Charlie Barber bass and vocals and Mike Caudle on drums. The band performed at local bars and parties for a year or so and was sounding pretty good so they decided they should ask to record at their longtime friend and fellow musician Doug Renbarger’s home studio. Doug didn’t realize that Mark had a hidden motive behind using him to record and that was to get him to play Hammond Organ with the band. After they recorded a few tracks it was decided that they should have Doug record some tracks with them and when they heard how good things sounded with Doug they asked him to join the band. He accepted and the band developed a hard hitting rock style that had a blues /soul edge to it and they quickly became popular. This led to many opening act opportunities for national touring bands that came through this region.
They opened for Steppenwolf, Leon Russell, Edgar Winter, Head East, Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show, Pat Travers , Molly Hatchett, Black Oak Arkansas, and many more. There were some changes to the band in the years to come and periods when some members played with other bands but they always came back to each other to perform because as Mark says “it just was never as good playing music with somebody else”.
After a time when live music was down and there wasn’t much going on Mark and Charlie decided to do some party gigs just for the hell of it and they needed a drummer. Charlie’s 13 year old son Andrew had been playing drums and taking lessons. They did some 3 piece gigs ,parties and bars. It was easy to see it was time to get Doug and Leonard and get things going again and the band was back. Once again they started to get popular and before they knew it they were back doing weekly gigs.
They had people that wanted to hear them and thanks their longtime friend and promoter Suki Willison-Blakely they always had places to play. To this day almost 35 years after the beginning the band performs with the same lineup. Founding members Mark Toelkes, Doug Renbarger, and Charlie Barber and Andrew Barber who has been with the band for seventeen years now plus guitarist Kelly Stansbury who has rejoined the band after a stint with them in the 90’s and the newest member 20 year old phenom Nathaniel Castillo on guitar, keyboards and vocals. Many say they are at the top of their games and have never sounded better.
In 2019 they were the headliner for the Spirit of Kansas Blues Festival in Topeka and they were featured at The Paxico Blues Festival and headlined The Mission Fest concert in Topeka. They play all the good rooms in this area and are regulars at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. Doug and Mark are “the old guys in the band” with Charlie not far behind and they all plan on playing till they can’t do it anymore. So far everybody is in good health so who knows what the future will bring. Mark wants the band name to continue long after they are gone so Andrew and Nathaniel will be carrying the torch making the Mark and The Sharks sound echo across the prairies of Kansas and over the green hills of Missouri to the red dirt of Oklahoma and beyond for years to come. A place in The Kansas Music Hall of Fame would be greatly appreciated by this band not only as a remembrance but as a badge of honor to carry with them into the future.
Mark Toelkes vocals, percussion
Doug Renbarger Hammond B Organ
Charlie Barber Bass
Andrew Barber Drums David Liston Drums
Kelly Stansbury guitar
Nathaniel Castillo guitar, keyboards & vocals