Lonnie Mack, Pioneering Rock Guitarist, Passes At 74
April 22, 2016 at 12:34 PM (PT)
LONNIE MACK, a pioneering guitarist who played his GIBSON Flying V with THE DOORS, STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN, JAMES BROWN, FREDDIE KING, ALBERT COLLINS and ROY BUCHANAN, passed away at the age of 74.
Born JULY 18th, 1941 in HARRISON, IN, LONNIE McINTOSH was a rock-guitar pioneer and a groundbreaker in lead soloing. His early instrumental recordings — "Wham!" and "Memphis" — influenced many of rock's greatest players, including STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN, ERIC CLAPTON, DUANE ALLMAN, KEITH RICHARDS and JIMMY PAGE.
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.”
CHICAGO TRIBUNE said: “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.”
MACK recorded a number of singles and a total of 11 albums for labels including ELEKTRA, ALLIGATOR, EPIC and CAPITOL.
Starting off with a few chords that he learned from his mother, MACK named MERLE TRAVIS and ROBERT WARD (of the OHIO UNTOUCHABLES) as his main guitar influences, and GEORGE JONES and BOBBY BLAND as vocal inspirations.
In addition to his live gigs, LONNIE began playing sessions for the KING and FRATERNITY labels in CINCINNATI, recording 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," and within a few weeks, the FRATERNITY RECORDS release hit the national Top Five. MACK went from being a talented regional roadhouse player to a national star virtually overnight.
"Wham!," "Where There's a Will There's a Way," "Chicken Pickin'" and more followed. In 1968, though none attained the heights of "Memphis." He signed with ELEKTRA RECORDS and cut three albums, including a reissue of his original FRATERNITY RECORDS LP, "The Wham of That MEMPHIS Man!" He began playing all the major rock venues, from FILLMORE EAST to FILLMORE WEST, and made a guest appearance (playing bass) on THE DOORS' "Morrison Hotel" album. He even worked in ELEKTRA's A&R department.
LONNIE left ELEKTRA when it became part of WARNER, signed with CAPITOL and cut two albums that featured his country influences. He joined veteran jingle writer ED LABUNSKI (who penned the original "This Bud's For You"), to build a studio in rural PENNSYLVANIA, recording a country-rock band, SOUTH. The two had plans to produce an album by a then-unknown TEXAS guitarist named STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN. LABUNSKI died in an auto accident, and the SOUTH album was never commercially released.
MACK then headed to CANADA and joined RONNIE HAWKINS' band for a summer. After a brief stay in Florida, he returned to Indiana in 1982, playing clubs in Cincinnati and the surrounding area.
MACK's comeback began in NOVEMBER, 1983, when he relocated to TEXAS at the urging of STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN and began jamming with the young guitar phenom at NEW YORK venues like THE RITZ and LONE STAR. The two joined forced on the ALLIGATOR RECORDS release, "Strike Like Lightning."
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. He is also a thoroughly convincing singer.”
Other noted music figures — BOB DYLAN, MICK JAGGER, PAUL SIMON, EDDIE VAN HALEN and DWIGHT YOAKAM — were spotted during the tour in the audience. The year was capped off with a performance at CARNEGIE HALL with ALBERT COLLINS and the late ROY BUCHANAN, which was recorded and 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," releasing "Roadhouses And Dancehalls" on EPIC RECORDS in 1988. LONNIE continued to tour into the 2000s, then relocated to SMITHVILLE, TN, where he continued writing songs but quit the road. In 2001, he was inducted into the INTERNATIONAL GUITAR HALL OF FAME and in 2005 into the ROCKABILLY HALL OF FAME.