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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:

Tribute To Stevie Ray Vaughan – 25 Classic Performances

StevieRayVaughanDoubleTroublePublicityShotThe world lost Stevie Ray Vaughan 25 years ago today. We lost a man, a musician, a legend, and a shining light in world full of darkness. Stevie overcame his personal demons and set about helping others do the same, both directly and indirectly. He was open about his experience and inspired people to change through not just his music, but his words and his actions. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of his horrific death, we shall celebrate his life. We put together a Spotify playlist of 25 Classic Performances. Granted, we were limited to the available music on Spotify which luckily includes most of his recorded output for CBS/Sony. Strangely enough, the SRV box set is missing and if possible I would have included some incredible live performances on there including “Rude Mood” and “Testify” from MTV Unplugged. Stevie Ray Vaughan played those two songs on 12-string acoustic guitar and when I saw it live on TV I was stunned and still am. Simply amazing. Anyway, here’s what we have lined up for you. Some it is off the beaten path but I hope it gives you a full picture of the man and his life in music. My notes are in italics.

1. Scuttle Buttin’ – Live At Montreux 1985
2. Say What! – Live At Montreux 1985
This is the wicked 1-2 punch Stevie used to open many shows. This was a great way to declare he was back to take no prisoners after a lukewarm reception at Montreux 3 years earlier.
3. Couldn’t Stand The Weather – Couldn’t Stand The Weather
All time favorite Stevie Ray Vaughan tune. I can see his wrist flying in my mind’s eye as I listen to that rhythm guitar part. Damn!
4. Little Wing/Third Stone From The Sun – Archives
SRV transforms this Hendrix beauty into an instrumental excursion beyond the Sun.
5. Texas Flood – Live At The El Mocambo
Incredible performance of the song that started it all for SRV & Double Trouble. Listen close and see if you can tell where he switched to playing behind his back.
6. Change It – Soul To Soul
The first few bars of this one shiver my spine every time!
7. Satisfy Susie – Lonnie Mack – Strike Like Lightning
Stevie as sideman and contributor on this tune that features a main riff that Stevie borrowed from time to time. Here he trades solos with Lonnie while simultaneously lifting Lonnie’s career out of obscurity. Stevie was kind to his predecessors.
8. Telephone Song – The Vaughan Brothers – Family Style
Funky track from the only album with big brother Jimmie Lee. This one will get you movin’! Stevie displays his incredible rhythm chops on this one too.
9. Blues At Sunrise – Albert King & Stevie Ray Vaughan – In Session
Albert talks way too much on this whole album but in between is some of the most incredible string bending you’ll ever hear from either of these two giants of the blues.
10. Travis Walk – In Step
This killer instrumental is not as blustery as “Rude Mood” or “Testify” but it’s bouncy and happy and will make you smile until your face freezes that way. Be careful!
11. Collins Shuffle – Live At Montreux 1982
Another Albert influenced SRV quite a bit too. Albert Collins. This is a terrific tribute to the Master of the Telecaster.
12. The Sky Is Crying – Essential
When I first heard SRV’s studio version of this I wasn’t impressed and I didn’t like that there was no slide guitar. This live version still has no slide guitar but he pulls out all the stops. It completely changed my mind about his choice to cover this song.
13. Give Me Back My Wig – Archives
I just love that Stevie liked Hound Dog Taylor and chose to cover one of his songs. I love Hound Dog too. This one DOES have slide guitar from Stevie Ray Vaughan.
14. Look At Little Sister – Soul To Soul
A blistering Texas Shuffle that he played so well. I love the trilling on the low strings and Double Trouble’s confident Strut.
15. Boot Hill (1984 Version) – Couldn’t Stand The Weather (Deluxe Edition)
An earlier version of the song found on The Sky Is Crying posthumous album. Now you can play a game of “Spot The Differences”! Exciting isn’t it?
16. Tin Pan Alley (aka Roughest Place In Town) – Live At The Spectrum, Montreal, August 17, 1984, Late Show
I had this bootleg for years before they added it to Couldn’t Stand The Weather. This is a blistering version of this great tune from Texas Flood.
17. Pride And Joy – Texas Flood
It’s just a classic and couldn’t be excluded.
18. Mary Had A Little Lamb – Live At Montreux 1985
If possible I would have included a post-rehab version of this song but there wasn’t one. This is an excellent substitute. Messed up or not, SRV was firing on all cylinders during his return to Montreux.
19. The Things That I Used To Do – Live At Carnegie Hall
Stevie got to play Carnegie Hall and he brought along his friends and big brother. He shared his success with the people he loved. We should all try that.
20. Crossfire – In Step
A Double Trouble composition and it’s a corker! Follow that bass! Stevie lights this one up like a Christmas tree.
21. Tick Tock – The Vaughan Brothers – Family Style
I hardly ever listen to this song but it features a great vocal performance by Stevie Ray Vaughan that cannot be denied. It’s also a direct reminder of our limited time here and that we need to make the most of it.
22. Lookin’ Out The Window – Soul To Soul
A little under three minutes of pure fun from Stevie and the boys.
23. Tightrope – In Step
Another example of Stevie’s talent in the rhythm guitar department. He was more than just incendiary solos and Texas shuffles. He was a tremendously well-rounded musician and showed it often.
24. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) – Live At The Spectrum, Montreal, August 17, 1984 Late Show
No one did Hendrix like Stevie Ray Vaughan and no one ever has. Stevie Ray Vaughan seemed to inherently understand Jimi’s playing and could expand on it or deconstruct it at will.
25. Riviera Paradise – In Step
We close with this beautiful piece of music from a beautiful person. You are missed Stevie Ray Vaughan, you are missed.

Hump Day! Risque Tunes For Your Midweek Blues 11/26/14

Welcome back for Hump Day! Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the United States and I am from the United States, I’m dedicating Hump Day to food and eating! Eating what? That’s for you to decide. Whatever it is, Memphis Minnie wants you to “Keep On Eating.” I’m guessing she’s talking about her hot buttered biscuits but you never know…

While you’re feasting on Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, remember your manner! Take T.V. Slim’s advice: “Don’t Reach Across My Plate.” I first heard this song as done by Albert Collins on his Frostbite album. I couldn’t find a clip with Albert’s version but the original certainly gets the point across. If you can find Albert’s version check it out. His keen sense of humor really shines.

Later on after the football games and a tryptophan and carbohydrate induced nap, maybe you’ll be looking for a light snack. Lonnie Mack and Stevie Ray Vaughan know exactly how you feel. They’ve got the “Oreo Cookie Blues.” If you’re looking for something else to snack on, A.C. Reed and Albert Collins can offer you some “Junk Food.” I know most of these tunes aren’t particularly risque but A.C. Reed does keep talking about a footlong…

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I hope you enjoy a day of food, family, friends, and blues. I’m off to whip up some Blues Biscuits…

 

T.V. Slim Don’t Reach Across My Plate

 

Memphis Minnie Keep On Eating

 

Lonnie Mack & Stevie Ray Vaughan Oreo Cookie Blues

 

A.C. Reed Junk Food