Rockers Remember Hudson Valley Guitar Legend Mark Hitt
Rockers including Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens and fellow bandmates are paying tribute to guitarist Mark Hitt, known for his work with the band Rat Race Choir among others.
Rat race Choir were big on the Long Island club circuit in the 70's and 80s along with other rock bands like Twisted Sister and Zebra, often playing shows all around New York, including Poughkeepsie at The Chance. Guitarist Mark Hitt from Peekskill, NY (Westchester County) was a legend. To me personally, he was always the highlight to see at the live shows, and I think most would agree. He was known for his work not only with Rat Race Choir, but also Hindenberg (Led Zeppelin tribute), Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, The Who's John Entwistle, Brian Johnson and Cliff Williams of AC/DC and The Robin Zander Band.
Word got out recently via Mark Hitt's Facebook page regarding his passing after a battle with pancreatic cancer and the Hudson Valley and beyond are mourning the loss of the guitar giant.
Tributes from fellow rockers including Mark Hitt's former bandmates have been pouring in on social media.
The Official Rat Race Choir Facebook page honored their former guitarist with a posting by bassist Dave Chmela, saying,
"I will be posting something very soon. So sorry if I appear late, but I was asked not to post yesterday and respected that wish. But today.... it is more an overwhelming sense of "where to even begin".....? My life with Mark as a friend and a bandmate in Rat Race Choir is so vast, so rich with music, memories, and stories, I am going to have to dedicate the month of October, using videos or posts sharing "all things Mark Hitt" that I have from the "golden years" , that I know, you will all enjoy. ( I've kept everything, RRC) "Needless to say, I am heartbroken. But unlike Larry's passing, I was aware this was coming. Mark had called me back in late April or early May, and told me he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He made me swear an Oath to keep the news to myself. He said a few other people were also told. I am so thankful that Mark and I became very close again, and more-so that we spent his last months laughing and joking and as we always had. But just... heartbreaking as well. There was only one Mark Hitt, and I thank God I had the good fortune to be his bass player and co-writer. I would say Rest in Peace?.... but when Mark gets to Heaven, all amps will be on Eleven."
Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens took to social media to pay tribute, and tell a story about being a 17 year old kid growing up in New York, idolizing Mark Hitt. He referred to him as his early "Jedi Master".
For drummer and longtime friend Steve Luongo, it's a major loss as the two spent so much time together from 1974- 2017 in various band's, including those early days in Rat Race Choir. Luongo took to social media to pay respects to his dear friend choosing to share many memories in photos. "They say a picture is worth 1000 words. That’s good because I have no words RIP." he said.
Guitarist Randy Jackson of Zebra, who spent many years playing the same circuit with Mark paid tribute, saying "My Friend, Mark Hitt. Rest in Eternal Love and Peace."
Drummer Steve "Budgie" Werner was a friend and bandmate of Mark Hitt's, including for many years performing with Led zeppelin tribute band Hindenberg. He paid tribute by posting a photo of the two together with the message,
"It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to my brother Mark today. So many great memories and gigs on this earth. I will always cherish the music we made but I will dearly miss your friendship, sense of humor and your intellect. You were a one of a kind and I will never forget our travels together. See you on the other side my friend. All my love.…"
The official Hindenberg (The New York based Led Zeppelin tribute) Facebook page honored Mark Hitt with a photo and the message,
"It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to the Maestro Mark Hitt, our visionary guitar player. He was truly one of a kind and NO one can match what he did on his instrument. He will be missed as our dear friend, with a laugh that will ring out forever. Till the next time we say goodbye.... we'll be thinking of you."
This one hits hard. No pun intended. Over the course of 20-something years, from around the time I started at WPDH in the late '90s, me and my boy Tony Casulli would travel all over the Hudson Valley on any given weekend, from Dutchess County to Westchester and the surrounding areas to go and see Mark Hitt, the former Ratt Race Choir guitarist, in whatever project he was involved with, including numerous shows with Led Zeppelin tribute Hindenberg.
I'd be mesmerized watching Mark play guitar. He was a monster player and was always on fire. So thankful that I'll always have those memories of great rock n roll weekends seeing him and every talented musician he played with perform. I had recently heard that Mark was ill but didn't know any other details. Now we all know that he fought a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. Rest easy Mark. Huge loss for the rock community. You will be greatly missed. Thanks for the music and the memories.
*UPDATED WITH FUNERAL SERVICE INFO
A Celebration of Life has been announced for Mark Hitt in Peekskill, NY for Sunday, October 23, 2022.