John grew up in San Lorenzo, CA and from the age of 5, when he first saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, bugged his parents constantly for a guitar. Several broken plastic toy guitars and 9 years later, he got a hand-me-down acoustic.
John never took any lessons, just learned the tried and true way: playing to records. All through high school he was never seen without that beat up little guitar and spent every break and lunch period out in the quad with a songbook or two. Much to his surprise, when he looked up after playing, there would often be a crowd of people standing around listening. That's when John figured out, "hey, I can meet girls doing this..."
For the next 20 years, John contented himself with jamming with friends, the occasional solo wedding gig, and home recording. Then, one fateful day in 1992, good friend (and fellow Heartstone member), Mike Olff, burst into a friend's house during a jam and said "Hey, let's form a band!" and the East Bay Area favorite, Woodeye, was born. At the ripe age of 33, John found himself in his first band and loved it. They gigged off and on (up to 70 gigs in a year) for the next 12 years before running their course.
Since then John has participated in a number of talented local bands including QuickFixx, Big Machine, Savhanna, and now is very excited to be playing with the stellar musicians in Heartstone.
Some of John's guitar influences include Joe Walsh, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, Robin Trower, and John McLaughlin, but they come out in a style all his own. John also loves to sing and can be heard with Heartstone on tunes from Tears for Fears, The Doobie Brothers, Tonic, Pink Floyd, and more.
Samantha Vaughn, born on December 1, some years ago, grew up all over California. Moving around so much as a little one, the single interest she found in each city was music. At any school that she was put into, she would sing.
Samantha, though in top choirs scholastically for years, wasn't prepared to take on the stage until one summer day in 2005. A close friend called her up to play in a Mamas and Papas cover band as Mama Cass in the San Francisco Summer of Love Revue. Ambitiously, Samantha would sing as Grace Slick in the SFSL as well and found her voice growing and growing. Two years later, Samantha played in the Monterey Pop Festival 2007 - playing on the same stage that the Mamas and Papas had 40 years prior. Then, she couldn't get enough of the stage.
Three years into singing professionally, Samantha realized that she wanted to go out on her own and joined several bands: Creeque Alley, John Wayne Zink and the Brown Liquor Cowboys, Samantha Vaughn and Hired Gun, and the band that helped present and record her original music, Misstreated.
Samantha then found herself at a musical stopping point - focusing hard on getting a career she enjoys and loves. When she was ready, she hopped on Craigslist and there was an ad looking for a lead female vocalist. So, she grabbed the strongest man she knew, her brother, and went to meet with an unknown. In 2012 Samantha was then known as lead vocalist in Heartstone.
Samantha feels lucky to have found such talented artists and she is very excited to be the lead singer in Heartstone. "Feels like home," she says.
Mark grew up in a Connecticut town about 30 minutes from New York City. He developed a knack for drumming early in life, and could often be heard banging on a “drumset” composed of lunch boxes, coffee cans, and anything else he could get his hands on! When he was eleven, his parents bought him a 60’s-era Gretsch kit at a local yard sale, and the rest is history.
Between his love for the instrument and raw, natural talent, Mark excelled quickly and received numerous musical honors and awards throughout middle and high school. Once in college, he focused on singing, songwriting, and learning the guitar. He arrived in San Francisco in 1987 and put together a power pop band, Left Blank, to perform the songs he had been crafting. The band gained a loyal following and stayed together until 1990, when Mark relocated back East. While in Orlando, FL he had a steady gig with the house band at the Saints and Sinners Lounge, did some session work, and continued writing original music.
In 1995, Mark was back in the Bay Area and has been performing locally ever since with a myriad of bands, including: The Raving Daves (winners of the 2002 FORTUNE Battle of the Corporate Bands), QuickFixx (also featuring John Dell), and The Headliners. When John and Mike asked him to join Heartstone in 2013, he jumped at the opportunity.
Mark’s influences include Stewart Copeland, John Bonham, and Danny Seraphine, among many others. Having been “raised on radio”, Mark enjoys playing music of all styles, and Heartstone provides him the opportunity to do just that. He loves lending his voice to Heartstone’s rich harmonies, and can even be heard singing lead on a song or two.
Bio coming soon...
Michael William Olff was born on August 29th in Rockville Centre, New York. Mike's musical interest started when he was ten, when he received his first guitar at Christmas. It just so happens, it was around the same time the Beatles hit the US.
Throughout high school in Smithtown, NY he played Bass in various "Garage Bands" occasionally playing a Jr. High dance. While attending college he performed in "Rapscallion" - a band formed by singer/songwriter Paul Carlozo.
Moving to Chicago to attend grad school He hooked up with a number of musicians in the suburbs to form the rock band Fist. And for about 2 years they played all around the Chicago area. One night while playing in the North Lincoln area the bar emptied out and he and the guys couldn't figure out why, so on a break they asked some people what was up. Well it appears that Mick and Keith of the Stones were Jamming with Muddy Waters at his club over on the next block warming up for their concert the next day at "Soldiers Field"
After graduating college he concentrated on his work and family for about 10 years. Then in 1992, his boys were a bit older so he set out to find some musicians to work with. This is when he met John Dell, guitarist for Heartstone. Both John and Mike, along with Juan Carreon and Jim King, formed Woodeye. They would go on to perform all around the Bay area for 10 years or so.
After leaving Woodeye, Mike worked with a number of Bay Area musicians. Performing with long time friend Jim Ashley, in The Beat Monkeys and Highway 4. He also worked with The Billy Martini 70's Musical Review, Big Machine, and Kristen Davis.
Heartstone was formed in March of 2012 when Mike met Samantha and Karen and immediately bonded with them. Soon after he recruited John and Mark to put the finishing touches on the band.
Mikes main axe is a 2000 Fender American Deluxe Jazz Bass, going through an SWR 750 head into a David Eden 4 ten cab. He believes an incredible solid groove is the key. Bass playing is about the space between the notes not how many notes you can hit in a measure.