Archives

Lonnie Mack Has Passed

Lonnie Mack, July 18, 1941 – April 21, 2016

LonnieMackThe following is a press release from Alligator Records. Here at Blues Biscuits we are crushed at this news. Lonnie is one of my favorite musicians and one of a long list of players I found through Stevie Ray Vaughan. I came to appreciate Lonnie for his breadth of talent and styles. He is in the pantheon of the blues Gods for sure. Rest easy Lonnie, we’re glad you were in the band…

Groundbreaking guitarist and vocalist Lonnie Mack, known as one of rock’s first true guitar heroes, died on April 21, 2016 of natural causes at Centennial Medical Center near his home in Smithville, Tennessee. His early instrumental recordings – among them Wham! and Memphis — influenced many of rock’s greatest players, including Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and especially Stevie Ray Vaughan. He was 74.

Rolling Stone called him “a pioneer in rock guitar soloing.” Guitar World said, “Mack attacked the strings with fast, aggressive single-string phrasing and a seamless rhythm style that significantly raised the guitar virtuoso bar and foreshadowed the arena-sized tones of guitar heroes to come.” The Chicago Tribune wrote, “With the wiggle of a whammy bar and a blinding run of notes up and down the neck of his classic Gibson Flying V, Lonnie Mack launched the modern guitar era.”

Drawing from influences as diverse as rhythm and blues, country, gospel and rockabilly, Mack’s guitar work continues to be revered by generation after generation of musicians. He recorded a number of singles and a total of 11 albums for labels including Fraternity, Elektra, Alligator, Epic and Capitol.

Mack was born Lonnie McIntosh on July 18, 1941 in Harrison, Indiana, twenty miles west of Cincinnati. Growing up in rural Indiana, Mack fell in love with music as a child. From family sing-alongs he developed a deep appreciation of country music, while he absorbed rhythm and blues from the late-night R&B radio stations and gospel from his local church. Starting off with a few chords that he learned from his mother, Lonnie gradually blended all the sounds he heard around him into his own individual style. He named Merle Travis and Robert Ward (of the Ohio Untouchables) as his main guitar influences, and George Jones and Bobby Bland as vocal inspirations.

He began playing professionally in his early teens (he quit school after a fight with his sixth-grade teacher), working clubs and roadhouses around the tri-state border area of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. In 1958, he bought the guitar he would become best known for, a Gibson Flying V, serial number 7, which he equipped with a Bigsby tremolo bar. (After the release of Wham!, the tremolo bar became known worldwide as a “whammy bar”.) In addition to his live gigs, Lonnie began playing sessions for the King and Fraternity labels in Cincinnati. He recorded with blues and R&B greats like Hank Ballard, Freddie King and James Brown.

In 1963, at the end of another artist’s session, Lonnie cut an instrumental version of Chuck Berry’s Memphis. He didn’t even know that Fraternity had issued the single until he heard it on the radio, and within a few weeks Memphis had hit the national Top Five. Lonnie Mack went from being a talented regional roadhouse player to a national star virtually overnight.

Suddenly, he was booked for hundreds of gigs a year, crisscrossing the country in his Cadillac and rushing back to Cincinnati or Nashville to cut new singles. Wham!, Where There’s A Will There’s A Way, Chicken Pickin’ and a dozen other records followed Memphis. None sold as well as his first hit (though Where There’s A Will earned extensive black radio airplay before the DJs found out Lonnie was white), but there was enough reaction to keep him on the road for another five years of grueling one-nighters.

Fraternity Records went bust, but Lonnie kept on gigging, and in 1968 a Rolling Stone article stimulated new interest in his music. He signed with Elektra Records and cut three albums. Elektra also reissued his original Fraternity LP, The Wham Of That Memphis Man!. He began playing all the major rock venues, from Fillmore East to Fillmore West. Lonnie also made a guest appearance on the Doors’ Morrison Hotel album. You can hear Lonnie’s guitar solo on Roadhouse Blues preceded by Jim Morrison’s urgent ‘Do it, Lonnie! Do it!’ He even worked in Elektra’s A&R department. When the label merged with giant Warner Brothers, Lonnie grew disgusted with the new bureaucracy and walked out of his job.

Mack headed back to rural Indiana, playing back-country bars, going fishing and laying low. After six years of relative obscurity, Lonnie signed with Capitol and cut two albums that featured his country influences. He played on the West Coast for a while and even flew to Japan for a “Save The Whales” benefit. Then he headed to New York to team up with an old friend named Ed Labunski. Labunski was a wealthy jingle writer that wrote “This Bud’s For You” who was tired of commercials and wanted to write and play for pleasure. He and Lonnie built a studio in rural Pennsylvania and spent three years organizing and recording a country-rock band called South, which included Buffalo-based keyboardist Stan Szelest, who later played on Lonnie’s Alligator debut. Ed and Lonnie had big plans for their partnership, including producing an album by a then-obscure Texas guitarist named Stevie Ray Vaughan. But the plans evaporated when Labunski died in an auto accident, and the South album was never commercially released. Lonnie next headed for Canada and joined the band of veteran rocker Ronnie Hawkins for a summer. After a brief stay in Florida, he returned to Indiana in 1982, playing clubs in Cincinnati and the surrounding area.

Mack began his re-emergence on the national scene in November of 1983. At Stevie Ray Vaughan’s urging, he relocated from southern Indiana to Texas, where he settled in Spicewood. He began jamming with Stevie Ray (who proudly named Wham! as the first single he owned) in local clubs and flying to New York for gigs at the Lone Star and the Ritz. When Alligator Records approached Lonnie to do an album, Vaughan immediately volunteered to help him out. The result was 1985’s Strike Like Lightning, co-produced by Lonnie and Stevie Ray and featuring Stevie’s guitar on several tracks.

Mack’s re-emergence was a major music industry event. Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Ry Cooder and Stevie Ray Vaughan all joined Lonnie on stage during his 1985 tour. The New York Times said, “Although Mr. Mack can play every finger-twisting blues guitar lick, he doesn’t show off; he comes up with sustained melodies and uses fast licks only at an emotional peak. Mr. Mack is also a thoroughly convincing singer.”  Other celebrities — Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, Eddie Van Halen, Dwight Yoakam and actor Matt Dillon — attended shows during the Strike Like Lightning tour. The year was capped off with a stellar performance at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall with Albert Collins and the late Roy Buchanan. That show was released commercially on DVD as Further On Down The Road.

Mack recorded two more albums for Alligator, 1986’s Second Sight and 1990’s Live! Attack Of the Killer V. In between he signed with Epic Records and released Roadhouses And Dancehalls in 1988. Mack continued to tour into the 2000s. He relocated to Smithville, Tennessee where he continued writing songs but ceased active touring. In 2001 he was inducted into the International Guitar Hall Of Fame and in 2005 into the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame.

He is survived by five children and multitudes of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Check out Lonnie’s extraordinary musicianship with this Spotify playlist:

Long John Hunter Playlist

In honor of Long John Hunter, we’ve put together a playlist. Yes, of course we did. We love playlists! If you’re not familiar with Long John Hunter, this is a great way to get familiar with his music. There are some tracks from his early singles on Peacock to his critically acclaimed work for Alligator Records, including a few tracks from the terrific Lone Star Shootout album with his pals Lonnie Brooks and Phillip Walker.long_john_hunter2

Long John Hunter grew up in Arkansas and Texas. As a young man, he was working in Beaumont, TX when B.B. King came to the Raven Club. Hunter took notice of the way women were charmed by Mr. King. Inspired by the lovely ladies, Hunter bought a guitar, started a band, and soon found himself headlining at the Raven Club. However, it was his famous 13 year stint headlining at the Lobby Bar in Juarez that brought him early acclaim. He gigged regularly with Little Joe Washington and both performers were regularly found swinging from the rafters while playing their guitars. Even with this early acclaim, Long John Hunter only got to record a handful of singles until the late 80’s resurgence of interest in Blues. He went on to record half a dozen new albums over the remainder of his career. The CD age also found many of his singles reissued and repackaged as well. Finally the public knew what the folks of Texas already did – Long John Hunter was a living legend.

We hope you enjoy the tracks we picked out and be sure to explore more of this talented man’s music.

Thanks again for checking out our playlists. They are a great way to hear new music and revisit some classics, but please keep in mind that artists and/or their estates get very little money from streaming media. If you hear something you like, please buy it and support them.

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases Round-up

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen. It is new releases round-up time again. There is a wide variety of new blues and blues related music out recently. We start off with a pair of albums we overlooked in recent new releases features.

Ana Popovic recently released an album with her father Milton. Speaking about the album, Ana recently reminisced “My dad Milton is the reason I’m into music. It was his impressive blues and soul collection and nightly jam sessions in our modest apartment on the 11th floor in New-Belgrade, Serbia that kept me awake at night and drawn to this great form of American art. I wanted to record the songs we use to play together while I was still living at home. As a memory of my youth days but also to give people, who are into my music, an idea of how and where things started. It took ten years to convince him to record an album together. At last I got him to the studio with an argument he could not reject: ‘Just do it for your grandchildren.’ He did.” It’s just in time for Father’s Day and makes a perfect gift for those Blues loving Dads out there.

Another one we missed recently is Otis Taylor’s Hey Joe Opus – Red Meat. The album is centered around Taylor’s musings on how decisions can change the lives of those affected by the choices. The album is designed to be listened to as a single piece of music in ten parts, with the song “Hey Joe” as its overarching theme. “Hey Joe” is performed twice, each with contrasting instrumentation. The music incorporates spacey textures and interlocking guitars, with additional accents provided by violins and cornets. Four notable guests lend their talents to the proceedings including Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes, acoustic guitarist Bill Nershi from The String Cheese Incident, and singer/songwriter/guitarist Langhorne Slim. Once again Taylor is creating undefinable music and this one certainly seems like it may be pretty intense.

Charles Wilson is the nephew of the late great blues legend, Little Milton, and has been tagged as “The Crown Prince of Soul.” He has been nominated for two W.C. Handy awards (now Blues Music Awards) and returns now with another blues focused disc called Sweet & Sour Blues. The Kentucky Headhunters and Johnnie Johnson teamed up again back in 2003 for a bluesy romp which is just now seeing the light of day on Alligator Records which has me pretty excited. As you may know, Johnnie Johnson was the piano player in Chuck Berry’s band and the man responsible for all those swinging sixths riffs that Chuck churned out on the guitar. Johnnie may not be remembered as the father of Rock & Roll but he was definitely the cool uncle who taught his brother everything he knew! Thankfully these recordings are finally coming out.

Here’s what to look for this week…

Ana & Milton Popovic

Ana & Milton Popovic Blue Room

Otis Taylor

Otis Taylor Hey Joe Opus – Red Meat

The Kentucky Headhunters and Johnnie Johnson

The Kentucky Headhunters and Johnnie Johnson Meet Me In Bluesland

Charles Wilson

Charles Wilson Sweet & Sour Blues

Travis Haddix

Travis Haddix It’s My Time Now: Best Of

Ken Tucker

Ken Tucker Look My Way

Chuck Willis

Chuck Willis My Story: All The Hits & Other Classic Tracks

Daddy Mack Blues Band

Daddy Mack Blues Band Bluesman Looks At Seventy

Hump Day! Risque Tunes For Your Midweek Blues 2/11/15

ShemekiaCopelandForHumpDay
“Who doesn’t love Hump Day?”

Happy Hump Day Biscuiteers! Valentine’s Day is coming up so I hope you have plenty of bawdy Blues ready for Hallmark’s annual Hump Day Blow Out (#thatsoundsdirty). One way to warm up for this winter holiday of love is to check out the sultry side of songstress Shemekia Copeland.

Shemekia will be appearing at F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, PA next Friday, February 20, 2015 and it got me thinking about her catalog of songs. She never gets raunchy, but it gets pretty steamy when this “Wild, Wild Woman” starts to “Turn Up The Heat.” Shemekia actually has a song called “Happy Valentine’s Day” but it’s a depressing tale of a cheating man making her cry on Valentine’s Day. Now, that is no way to treat a lady. Certainly not the new Queen of the Blues!

If you want to know how to treat her, go no further than “Your Mama’s Talking.” For some reason, ladies referring to themselves as Mama in bawdy songs doesn’t seem as creepy as the guys calling themselves Daddy, but it’s still disturbing. This mama will take your mind off that conundrum for sure.

We hope you have a happy Hump Day, a Happy V-day (naughty!), and if you’re in the area, please join us at Shemekia’s show at the F.M. Kirby Center next Friday.

Now, turn up the heat!

Shemekia Copeland Your Mama’s Talking

Shemekia Copeland Wild, Wild Woman

Shemekia Copeland Turn The Heat Up

Shemekia Copeland Coming To F.M. Kirby Center

ShemekiaCopeland_Approved2Vocal powerhouse, Shemekia Copeland, will visit the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, February 20 at 8:00 p.m. as part of the “Live from the Chandelier Lobby” concert series. The Chandelier Lobby provides an intimate setting where the attendees can experience the passion and power of the musicians up close.

While only in her early 30’s, Shemekia Copeland is already a force to be reckoned with in the blues music industry. She has already opened for the Rolling Stones, headlined at the Chicago Blues Festival, scored critics choice awards on both sides of the Atlantic (The New York Times and The Times of London), shared the stage with such luminaries as Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Mick Jagger, and Eric Clapton, and has even performed at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama. Heir to the rich tradition of soul-drenched divas like Ruth Brown, Etta James and Koko Taylor, Copeland was presented with Taylor’s crown on June 12, 2011 at the Chicago Blues Festival.

Born in Harlem, New York, in 1979, Copeland is the daughter of the late Texas blues guitar legend Johnny Clyde Copeland. Ms. Copeland has recently re-signed with Alligator Records, the label she called home from 1998 through 2005. Shemekia is working on a new album with producer Oliver Wood and the new music is due in September 2015.

Her passion for singing, matched with her huge, blast-furnace voice, gives her music a timeless power and a heart-pounding urgency. Her music comes from deep within her soul and from the streets where she grew up, surrounded by the everyday sounds of the city – street performers, gospel singers, blasting radios, bands in local parks and so much more.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at the Kirby Center Box Office, by phone at (570) 826-1100 and online at www.kirbycenter.org.

Tickets Prices: $20.00 (advance), $25 (day of show), plus fees

Hump Day! Risque Tunes For Your Midweek Blues 7/16/14

DSCN8965Alright Biscuiteers, it’s a little late but maybe it’s just in time for some Hump Day musical adventure, if you know what I mean. This week’s selections were inadvertently inspired by Briggs Farm Blues Festival. Eddie Shaw played a hot set on the Main Stage but he also appears on a CD I bought from a vendor at the festival. The CD is Living Chicago Blues Volume 1 on Alligator Records. it was still in the long lost long box too! Eddie Shaw & The Wolf Gang have four songs on the disc including “My Baby’s So Ugly” which is mildly risque but makes me laugh too. I don’t usually listen to songs over and over again but this one got a few replays. While I was looking for it on Youtube for Hump Day, I came across another Eddie Shaw tune that again displayed his sly humor. “You’re Wife Is Cheating On Us” isn’t just a fun song for Hump Day, it’s scorching performance too and clocks in around nine minutes. See if you can go all the way with this Wolf Gang jam.

Eddie Shaw My Baby’s So Ugly

Eddie Shaw Your Wife Is Cheating On Us