Mark was raised in a military family and spent much of his early childhood living outside the U.S. He lived in Lima, Peru for three years and in the Canal Zone in Panama for three more, and remains relatively fluent in Spanish to this day. He began his long musical career at the age of 14, when he rented a Sears electric guitar and amp from a classmate for the summer. The five dollars it cost him turned out to be a pretty good investment, and over half a century later Mark is still playing music and still having fun entertaining "my favorite audience in the world, at my favorite place...the Cactus!" In the early '80's Mark and his family lived in Nashville, where he was a staff writer for Tree Publishing (now Sony-Tree) and had several of his songs recorded by artists such as John Conlee, T.G. Sheppard, The Kendalls, and Hank Jr. However, his first love has always been performing on stage, and in the mid-eighties the Padens moved back home to Lubbock, where he has been ever since. While Mark may have started out as a guitar player, for the last 20 years he has played bass in the Lubbock Texas Rhythm Machine, the fabulous Cactus Theater house band. He credits the bass for making him a better all-around musician, improving his sense of time and his ability to play "in the pocket." But occasionally he dusts off his old guitar and, depending on the show and style of music, returns to old familiar territory, strumming 6 strings instead of plucking 4, and loving every musical minute of it!