Photo Credit:   JIM DOROTHY

Photo Credit: JIM DOROTHY


"Music is not a competition, but collaboration and teamwork.  I play not to win a prize but to create an entity that conveys feeling and meaning directly to the heart of an audience."           - Mark Riley   


Based out of the Pacific Northwest, Mark Riley has won fans and friends across the country with his award winning skill and warm demeanor. While able to hold his own on the stage, Mark is happiest when sharing it with other players. Mark Riley has shared the stage and studio with dozens of artists in the span of his career including: The Mark Riley Trio , Little Bill and the Blue Notes , Merilee Rush       Sam Andrew , The Mark Whitman Band , Chris Leighton , Paul Green , Ron Holden , Kathi McDonald , Patti Allen , Nancy Claire


Washington Blues Society

  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Blue To The Bone, Blues Hall of Fame, Best Blues Slide Guitar: 2014                                      
  • Best Blues Slide Guitar, Best Acoustic Blues Guitar, Best Electric Blues Guitar: 2013  
  • Best Acoustic Blues Guitar: 2012
  • Best Blues Slide Guitar: 2011
  • Best  Acoustic Blues Guitar: 2009
  • Best Blues Songwriter: 2007
  • Best Acoustic Blues Guitar: 2006
  • Best Acoustic Blues Guitar: 2006                     
  • Best Acoustic Blues Guitar: 2005
  • Best New Band, Mark Riley Trio: 2003
  • Best Traditional Act, Little Bill & The Blue Notes: 2002
  • Best Acoustic Blues Guitar: 2000
  • Best Acoustic Blues: 1998

Tacoma Music Association      

  • Bob Summarize Blues Man of the Year: 2001 


The soundtrack to Mark's early years were his father and grandfather's old school country records. Music was swirling around Mark Riley from the moment he was born. In the 3rd grade his family moved from the Northwest to Burbank, California, where music was a required course. Mark encountered his first musical instrument - the recorder. Mark caught up to his class immediately, quickly learning how to read notes, play in time, and add vibrato. “Get that kid some music lessons,”  his teacher told his parents. All of Marks music education would come through public school programs and collaboration with others. 

In the 4th grade Mark spent most Saturdays with his friend, Tony Cogger, who played drums, piano, and accordion. His whole family gathered in their rec-room to play country music.  One day Mark picked up a cheap student model guitar that was hanging on their wall, set it on his lap flat, and strummed it. He marveled at the sound and tonality of it.  Mark instantly fell in love with the guitar and asked Tony's uncle, a country music player, to teach him. Tony’s uncle taught Mark a few chords and advised him, "Just move those cords up and down the neck, and that’s all you’ll need to know, and listen to The Ventures, you'll be okay."  At 12, Mark had picked up the guitar, and he would never let it go. Mark played every chance he had - he and Tony regularly traveled to the downtown Seattle Sherman Clay location to play Beatle's songs on their 12 string guitars. They were there so often that the owner moved the guitars to an enclosed room so that the boys could play and customers could still shop pianos. Tony and Mark started a band called Syncopated Wheel that practiced in Mark's mother's garage, despite the protests of some uptight neighbors who worried that their rock-and-roll playing was disrupting their peaceful neighborhood.  Syncopated Wheel played out in their community - at company picnics, supermarket openings, and school dances.

In 8th grade a friend of his music teacher, Mr. Rosenquist, advised Mark to look into Alan Lomax. Mark went to the public library and requested whatever they had of the Alan Lomax audio collection. Field recordings of artists in Missippi's prisons and artists like Big Bill Broonsy, Bukka White, Charlie Patton and Vera Hall moved Mark in a way that the songs on the radio could not. As he dug further he found that most of the rock-n-roll songs he listened to were influenced (or directly stolen from) the music of Black sharecroppers making original music in the first half of the 20th century. This began his fascination and love affair with the blues. 

In high school Mark formed another band with friends Billy Washburn and Don Morris, and they formed a rock-n-roll band. They played school dances and even taverns (though it wasn't legal for them to do so). As soon as they graduated high school Mark, Billy, and Don joined Ed Raetzloff, for whom Mark had been a roadie, on a cross country move to Nashville to play in the band he formed with Bill Little and Clint Delong: Blue Jug Band. In this season Mark began playing pedal steel and Hawaiian style dobro as well as electric guitar. He was offered a recording contract as a solo act but, heeding his parent's advice, he chose not to sign it, and moved back to the Northwest. Mark was married and had two sons. He a day job and played guitar in bar bands on the weekends. 

In 1980 Ed reached out to Mark again, this time asking him to join him in Los Angeles to play in a Christian Rock band. Mark played on Ed Raetzloff's first solo record It Took a Long Time To Get To You, featuring the song I've Been Down That Road Too. After about a year in L.A. Mark moved back to the Northwest. He would spend the next decade playing guitar in various bands while also playing and music directing for Seattle Women in Rhythm and Blues. In this period he played for The Olsen Brothers, Merilee Rush, and Little Bill and the Blue Notes. In 2002 he finally decided to strike out on his own and formed The Mark Riley Triowhich continues to perform today.

Mark remains a collaborator at heart, and plays in the trio as well as joining various others to perform blues, jazz, and rock and roll. His ability to deftly translate the emotion of a song through his guitar and voice continually garner Mark Riley awards and requests to join forces.  Mark is a master guitarist, musicologist, and true lover of songs quintessentially American; his skill and passion make him able to embody what makes them great.