Lonnie Mack
American blues-rock guitarist and vocalist
Lonnie Mack
Lonnie Mack is an American rock, blues, and country guitarist and vocalist. In 1963 and early 1964 he recorded a succession of full-length electric guitar instrumentals that combined blues stylism with fast-picking techniques and a rock beat. The best-known of these are "Memphis", "Wham!", and "Chicken Pickin'".
Biography
Lonnie Mack's personal information overview.
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News
News abour Lonnie Mack from around the web
Lonnie Mack, Singer and Guitarist Who Pioneered Blues-Rock, Dies at 74
NYTimes - 10 months
Mr. Mack was a seminal influence on a long list of British and American artists.
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NYTimes article
Guitarist Lonnie Mack dies at 74
Fox News - 10 months
A musician whose instrumental recordings influenced guitar players including Stevie Ray Vaughan has died in Nashville, Tennessee. Lonnie Mack was 74.
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Fox News article
Elvis Birthday Bash is set for Sunday in Burbank
LATimes - about 1 year
Los Angeles’ annual tribute to Elvis Presley is set for Sunday, two days after the King of Rock 'N' Roll would have turned 81. Event founder Ronnie Mack will be joined from 3 to 9 p.m. in the Riverside Concert Hall at Pickwick Bowl in Burbank by a long lineup of area roots, rock and country musicians,...
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LATimes article
Grammys Finally Include New Group In Awards
Huffington Post - about 4 years
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Music teachers are now eligible for a Grammy honor of their own. Recording Academy president Neil Portnow says the group has established a music educator award that will be presented for the first time next year. Portnow announced the new award Thursday at the Grammy Foundation's 15th annual Music Preservation Project event at the Saban Theatre. "We're dedicated to preserving the great music of the past, present and future," he said. "Music education is perhaps the most vital part of the Grammy Foundation's mission." Kindergarten through college teachers are eligible for the new annual award, which will be presented at a special ceremony the day before the Grammy Awards. Students and colleagues can nominate candidates online. Thursday's event, dubbed "Play it Forward," featured performances by Dionne Warwick, LeAnn Rimes, Emmylou Harris, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Yolanda Adams and Lupe Fiasco, who is up for best rap albu ...
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Huffington Post article
The Macks weigh in on Hagel criticism
CNN - about 4 years
Fmr. Reps Mary and Connie Mack discuss the criticism of Chuck Hagel over his potential Secretary of Defense nomination.
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CNN article
Rep. Connie Mack pushes bill benefiting big donor
Usa Today - about 4 years
Rep. Connie Mack is backing a bill that benefits a major donor.
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Usa Today article
Richard (RJ) Eskow: Less Than Zero: Rep. Mary Bono Mack Hurts Middle Class, Uses 'Toilet' Slur Against Her Own District
Huffington Post - over 4 years
Wealthy Republican incumbent Mary Bono Mack is locked in a tight and bitter Congressional race against a progressive Democrat with an inspiring story. While her campaign focuses on red-baiting her opponent (yes, they still do that in 2012) a new nonpartisan analysis shows that Mack scores "zero" on voting for the interests of the middle class. Actually, make that less than zero. Mack has actively worked to undermine middle-class interests, including those of her own constituents, many of whom are struggling underwater homeowners. She's also displayed withering contempt for some residents of her own district, whose neighborhoods she laughingly agreed was a "third world toilet." There's something particularly distasteful about seeing someone who earned her Congressional seat the "old-fashioned way" -- that is, through nepotism, cronyism and big-money politics -- describe the homes of her own constituents that way. What's truly "third world" about Mary Bono Mack's di ...
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Huffington Post article
Binky Philips: Binky's Revenge: My Own Damned Most Influential Guitarists List!
Huffington Post - over 4 years
I have long had a love/hate relationship with The Top 10 (20, 50, 100) All Time Guitarist lists. As in, I love to see how much hatred and rage they can generate in my arrogant pedantic know-it-all bile-soaked soul. It is absolutely guaranteed that at some point, a guy who doesn't belong within a fer-piece of any list will be ranked far above a Giant, and I'll want to tear the heads off the dolts who had the temerity to write/publish such tripe. So, in that spirit, I've decided to have my head torn off. I've been writing for Huffington Post since June of 2010 and it only occurred to me last week, Hey, I have a forum! I can make my own damn list. Oh, boy! Oh, boy! [Check my archive... I have plenty of posts about plenty of the guitarists mentioned in this one.] You are about to embark on a journey (sorry, no Neil Schon) into the mind of a Total Dick when it comes to the subject of (guitars and) guitar players. It's simple, really... I know more than you. Nyaaaah Nyaaah ...
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Huffington Post article
Republicans See Hopes for Florida Senate Seat Fade
Fox News - over 4 years
Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., fails to capitalize on GOP's portrayal of incumbent as a DC insider Senate Passes Sportsmen's Bill in 84-7 Vote Senate Votes Down Measure to Cut Aid to Pakistan, Approves Iran Resolution
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Fox News article
TAMPA TEA PARTY INVITES YOU TO MEET THE TEA PARTY EXPRESS BUS ON THEIR 8TH AMERICAN TOUR!!! FREE CONCERT
Brandon Patch - over 4 years
  Hello Friends & PATRIOTS! The Famous TEA PARTY EXPRESS BUS is coming to TAMPA for its TAKE BACK THE SENATE TOUR! This is their 8th National tour and there will be amazing speakers and professional Musical guests  After the EVENT, if you can stay AND Volunteer to help make calls for CONNIE MACK, CANDIDATE FOR SENATE FWFA will provide the FOOD and DRINKS!  IF you are unable to make the Tea Party Express event, please join us at 7:30 right there - in the FREEDOMWORKSFORAMERICA OFFICE and learn how to PHONE BANK from the comfort of your own home! MAke a difference this year!! Help America Back on Track IF you are attending the BUS STOP...join us at 7:30 at the FreedomWorks for America Regional Office...and learn how to PHONE BANK from the comfort of your own home! bring your LAP TOP and CELL PHONE, and We will Walk You Through how to do it from HOME! Join the 21st CENTURY and HELP BRING a CONSERVATIVE VICTORY to FLORIDA in NOVEMBER!   PLEASE RSVP if you are ...
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Brandon Patch article
Connie Mack of Florida takes center stage in bid for Senate seat
LATimes - over 4 years
TAMPA, Fla. -- Star candidates in the battle for control of the Senate have taken their campaigns to the Republican National Convention, and home state nominee Connie Mack joined them Thursday night.
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LATimes article
QUICKQUOTE: RENEWAL
Yahoo News - over 4 years
U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla.
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Yahoo News article
Mack:Floridians not excited by Obamacare
CNN - over 4 years
Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) on how voters will view the Medicare debate ahead of the Republican National Convention.
Article Link:
CNN article
Rep Connie Mack wins Senate (R) Primary in Florida
Fox News - over 4 years
Article Link:
Fox News article
Holy Cow! Family Finds Baseball Card Collection That May Fetch $3 Million
NPR - over 4 years
Stored away in an Ohio attic for about 100 years, the rare cards are in mint condition. Among the players: Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb and Connie Mack. Now, 20 cousins will share the windfall. » E-Mail This     » Add to Del.icio.us
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NPR article
Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Lonnie Mack
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 2016
    Age 74
    Lonnie Mack died of natural causes on April 21, 2016, at a country hospital near his log-cabin home, seventy miles east of Nashville, Tennessee.
    More Details Hide Details He had often told friends of a lifelong recurring dream, set near his childhood home, in which "his body flew effortlessly across the Ohio River". He was buried on a hillside overlooking the river, near the scenes of his youth, in Aurora, Indiana.
  • 2012
    Age 70
    In 2012, guitarist Travis Wammack asked Mack to join him on a tour to be billed as the "Double Mack Attack".
    More Details Hide Details Mack declined, stating that he "wasn't in good shape", adding that he was no longer able to stand while playing and that the angular shape of Number 7 precluded him from playing it while sitting.
  • 2011
    Age 69
    Also in 2011, he released some informally recorded compositions on his website, including the acoustic blues single "The Times Ain't Right".
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    In 2011, he was working on a memoir and engaged in a songwriting collaboration with award-winning country and blues tunesmith Bobby Boyd.
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  • 2010
    Age 68
    On June 5–6, 2010, he played at an invitation-only reunion concert with the surviving members of his original band.
    More Details Hide Details It was his final public performance.
    Mack was scheduled to close out the Clearwater (FL) Blues Festival on February 21, 2010, but had to cancel due to inability to assemble a band in time, and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers took his place.
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  • 2009
    Age 67
    In 2009, he spontaneously took the stage at a backwoods Tennessee roadhouse and "proceeded to officially tear the roof off the place", playing "Cincinnati Jail" on a borrowed guitar.
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  • 2008
    Age 66
    On November 15, 2008, he was a featured performer at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's thirteenth annual Music Masters Tribute Concert, soloing on "Wham!" in a 93rd birthday tribute to special guest, electric-guitar pioneer Les Paul.
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  • 2004
    Age 62
    He continued to tour the roadhouse circuit until 2004.
    More Details Hide Details Thereafter, he appeared sporadically at benefit concerts and special events. Looking back on his career, he said:
  • FIFTIES
  • 2000
    Age 58
    In 2000, he appeared as a guest artist on the album Franktown Blues, by the sons of blues legend Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup.
    More Details Hide Details He contributed guitar solos on two cuts, "She's Got The Key" and "Malibu Jammin' For James". That same year, he appeared as songwriter and guitarist on the country-rock album of a friend, Jack Holland, entitled "The Pressure's All Mine".
  • FORTIES
  • 1989
    Age 47
    In 1989, he returned to Alligator to record a live blues-rock album, Lonnie Mack Live – Attack of the Killer V, featuring two extended guitar solos and expanded renditions of earlier studio recordings.
    More Details Hide Details From one review: "This disc has everything that a great live album should have: a great talent on stage, an exciting performance from that talent, a responsive crowd and excellent sound quality... This is what live blues is all about!" Attack was his final album as a featured artist. Following "Attack of the Killer V", Mack moved to middle Tennessee, started a website and founded a record company to distribute his music. During the 1990s, he continued to tour America and Europe in small venues and music festivals.
    In 1989, Mack performed on Saturday Night Live, as the guest of the SNL house band's guitarist.
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  • 1988
    Age 46
    In 1988, he moved to Epic Records, where he recorded the critically acclaimed rockabilly album, Roadhouses and Dance Halls, including the autobiographical single, "Too Rock For Country".
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  • 1986
    Age 44
    In 1986, Mack recorded another Alligator album, Second Sight, featuring both introspective and up-tempo tunes as well as an instrumental blues jam.
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  • 1984
    Age 42
    Mack signed with Alligator Records in 1984, and, upon recovering from his illness, began working on his rock comeback album, Strike Like Lightning.
    More Details Hide Details It became one of the top-selling independent recordings of 1985. Mack and Vaughan co-produced the album. Mack himself composed most of the tunes, which featured his vocals and driving guitar equally. Vaughan played second guitar on most of the album and traded leads with Mack on "Double Whammy" and "Satisfy Susie". Both played acoustic guitar on Mack's "Oreo Cookie Blues" and they sang a duet on Mack's "If You Have to Know". Strike propelled Mack back into the spotlight at age 44. Much of 1985 found him occupied with a promotional concert tour for Strike that included guest appearances by Vaughan and Ry Cooder, as well as Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones, among others. Videos of Mack and Vaughan playing cuts from Strike are found on YouTube and similar websites. In 2007, Sony's Legacy label released a 1987 "live" performance of Mack's "Oreo Cookie Blues" featuring them trading leads on electric guitar.
  • 1983
    Age 41
    Also in 1983, he relocated to Texas, where he played regularly at venues in Dallas and Austin.
    More Details Hide Details Early in this period, he entered into a professional collaboration with local guitar phenom Stevie Ray Vaughan, who was soon to become an international blues-rock guitar sensation. Mack and Vaughan had first met in 1979, when Mack, acting on a tip from Vaughan's older brother, Jimmie Vaughan, went to hear him play at a local bar. Vaughan recalled the meeting: Mack and Vaughan became close friends. Despite the generation gap between them, Mack said that he and Vaughan "were always on the same level", describing Vaughan as "an old spirit in a young man's body". Mack regarded Vaughan as his "little brother" and Vaughan considered Mack "something between a daddy and a brother". When Mack was stricken with a lengthy illness in Texas, Vaughan put on a benefit concert to help pay his bills; during Mack's recuperation, Vaughan and his bass-player, Tommy Shannon, personally installed an air-conditioner in Mack's house.
    His first album from this period was Live at Coco's, a Kentucky roadhouse performance recorded in 1983.
    More Details Hide Details Originally a bootleg recording, it wasn't released commercially until 1998. On Coco's, Mack and his band can be heard playing familiar tunes from the Fraternity era, lesser-known tunes from the 1970s, tunes that appear on no other album (e.g., "Stormy Monday", "The Things I Used to Do" and "Man from Bowling Green") and tunes that did not appear on his studio albums until several years later (e.g., "Falling Back in Love with You", "Ridin' the Blinds", "Cocaine Blues" and "High Blood Pressure").
  • THIRTIES
  • 1979
    Age 37
    In 1979, Mack began working on an independent country album entitled "South" with a friend, producer-songwriter Ed Labunski.
    More Details Hide Details However, Labunski was killed in an auto accident mid-project, and demos from the project were shelved for twenty years. Labunski's death also derailed Mack's and Labunski's plans to produce then-unknown Texas blues-guitar prodigy Stevie Ray Vaughan, who was destined to play a key role in Mack's blues-rock comeback a few years later. By the early 1980s, Mack had been largely absent from the rock-music scene for over a decade, and his visibility as a recording artist had waned considerably.
  • 1977
    Age 35
    Mack recovered, but for the next several years he kept a low profile, performing locally at his "Friendship Music Park" in rural southern Indiana (a venue he provided for bluegrass and traditional country artists) and at a 1977 "Save the Whales" benefit concert in Japan.
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  • 1975
    Age 33
    In 1975, Mack was shot during an altercation with an off-duty police officer.
    More Details Hide Details He memorialized the incident in one of his better-known late-career tunes, "Cincinnati Jail". According to the lyrics, the officer's unmarked car narrowly missed Mack while he was walking across a city street. As it brushed past him, Mack hit it on the fender, shouting "better slow it down!". The officer stopped, emerged from his car, shot Mack "in the leg", then hauled him before a judge, who threw Mack in jail with his "leg still full of lead". Later, in an interview, Mack contended that the officer was drunk, but admitted that he, Mack, was wielding a machete at the time, and might have slashed the officer's car with it. He said that despite the song's reference to being shot in the leg, he was actually shot "in the ass", that the bullet passed all the way through him and that "another inch and a half and I would have been singing soprano".
  • 1973
    Age 31
    Between 1973 and 1978, Mack recorded several country-flavored albums that went largely unnoticed at the time, although some garnered favorable reviews many years later.
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  • TWENTIES
  • 1971
    Age 29
    Mack's final Elektra album, The Hills of Indiana, was released in 1971.
    More Details Hide Details Foreshadowing the next phase of his career, it completed Mack's shift of focus away from high-octane R&B and blues-rock, towards the pastoral, country end of the musical spectrum. "Asphalt Outlaw Hero", a southern rock tune with a blistering guitar solo, came closest to the style of Mack's classic recordings from the early 1960s; otherwise, Hills was a collection of relatively laid-back, country-flavored tunes with an overlay of compatible stylistic elements drawn from the overall sound of The Band and the contemporary singer-songwriter movement. While recording the album in Nashville, Mack and his family lived in a converted school bus that he parked in the studio's parking lot. He cut a hole in the roof to vent a wood-burning stove. "He was a mountain man", said the studio's owner. "He was just a really funky guy. He didn’t have any airs about him, just plain old funky."
  • 1970
    Age 28
    In 1970, Elektra also reissued a "Collectors" edition of his 1964 debut album.
    More Details Hide Details However, Mack's country-boy image and temperament were unsuited to hippie-era rock stardom and by 1970 he had become disenchanted with city life and the "big business" side of pop music. Mack moved to Nashville to record his final Elektra album, then spent the next fifteen years in Indiana and Texas, playing out the roles of low-profile country recording artist, multi-genre roadhouse performer, sideman, session musician and rural music park proprietor. In 1985, with help and encouragement from his friend and blues-rock disciple, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Mack re-emerged as a rock artist with his indie comeback album, "Strike Like Lightning", a promotional tour featuring guest appearances by Vaughan, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Ry Cooder, and a Carnegie Hall concert with Albert Collins and Roy Buchanan. Over the next four years, he released three more albums, including his recording career epilog, "Lonnie Mack Live – Attack of the Killer V!" (1990). He continued to perform in small venues in the US and abroad until 2004 and appeared at a small handful of special events thereafter.
  • 1969
    Age 27
    Upon completing his 1969 albums, Mack assumed a "Chet Atkins-Eric Clapton role at Elektra, doing studio dates, producing and A&R."
    More Details Hide Details In that role, he helped to recruit a number of country and blues artists from Nashville, Memphis, and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and Elektra considered the launch of a specialty label to record them. Mack tried to sign Carole King, but Elektra rejected her on the grounds that they already had Judy Collins. He then attempted to interest Elektra in gospel singer Dorothy Combs Morrison, the former lead vocalist for the Edwin Hawkins Singers of "Oh Happy Day" fame. Mack had recorded Morrison singing a gospel-esque version of The Beatles' "Let It Be", and sought permission to release it; management's response was delayed, however, due to ongoing negotiations for the label's sale to Warner Brothers, allowing a competing label to seize the initiative and release Aretha Franklin's own gospel version first. "That bummed me out", Mack said. According to a close associate, Mack "had no tolerance for the internal politics of the music business". He resigned his corporate job.
    While Mack's Fraternity recordings had been known for seamlessly blending distinct genres within individual tunes, his 1969 Elektra albums presented individual tunes from distinct genres in a contrasting way.
    More Details Hide Details On "Whatever's Right", Mack sang Willie Dixon's "My Babe" in a soul style. Within seconds of the closing measure, he shifted stylistic gears and began his vocal on "Things Have Gone to Pieces", a country tune previously recorded by George Jones. He repeated the pattern of contrasts in Glad by performing a soul tune, "Too Much Trouble", and a country tune, "Old House", back-to-back. Despite the shifts in style, emphasis and general approach, Mack's recording output from this period was well received by music critics. A contemporary assessment of Glad opined: Mack's taste and judgment are super-excellent. Every aspect of his guitar bears a direct relationship to the sound and meaning of the song. His voice is strong without straining and of great range and personality. If this isn't the best rock recording of the season, it's the solidest. – Rolling Stone, May 3, 1969, p. 28.
    In contrast to The Wham of that Memphis Man, both 1969 albums emphasized Mack's vocals and de-emphasized his guitar work.
    More Details Hide Details Only two instrumentals appear on them, i.e., a full-length blues-guitar piece on Glad entitled "Mt. Healthy Blues", and a re-make of "Memphis".
  • 1968
    Age 26
    A feature article in the November 1968 issue of Rolling Stone magazine rated Mack "in a class by himself" as a rock guitarist, and compared his R&B vocals favorably with Elvis Presley's best gospel efforts.
    More Details Hide Details Rolling Stone urged Elektra to reissue Mack's five-year-old Fraternity album, in addition to the three new albums. Elektra soon obliged, reissuing The Wham of that Memphis Man!, with two additional 1964 tracks, under the title For Collectors Only. Rolling Stones October 1970 review of For Collectors Only compared Mack's guitar recordings from the early 1960s to the best of Eric Clapton's later recordings. Mack recorded three new albums with Elektra, Glad I'm in the Band (1969), Whatever's Right (1969), and The Hills of Indiana (1971). In the aggregate, the three Elektra albums represented a marked departure from the strengths and stylistic formula of Mack's earlier work, previously touted by Rolling Stone. They were eclectic collections of country and soul ballads, blues tunes, and updated versions of earlier recordings.
    In 1968, with the blues-rock and guitar-soloing movements approaching full force, Mack was re-discovered by Elektra Records.
    More Details Hide Details He relocated to Los Angeles to execute a three-album record deal.
  • 1967
    Age 25
    The uncredited guitar solo which was Brown's 1967 instrumental hit, "Stone Fox", has been attributed to both Mack and Troy Seals.
    More Details Hide Details During the same period, he found steady work as a session guitarist for John Richbourg's Soundstage 7 Productions in Nashville, backing soul singer Joe Simon and several other Richbourg R&B acts on Monument Records. He also played lead guitar on several Fraternity recordings of Cincinnati blues singer Albert Washington. Like most contemporary releases of the financially-distressed Fraternity label, Washington's recordings attracted only modest attention at home. However, one featuring Mack's guitar ("Turn On The Bright Lights"), stayed on the pop charts in Japan for several consecutive years and all were later reissued in the UK.
  • 1966
    Age 24
    Jazz-rock guitarist Jeff Beck considers Mack a "major influence". His 1966 Yardbirds-era showcase, "Jeff's Boogie", has been called "a deliberate nod to Mack".
    More Details Hide Details As recently as 2015, he included Mack's "Lonnie on the Move" in his standard live-tour set list. Western swing guitarist Ray Benson, frontman for eight-time Grammy-winner Asleep at the Wheel, declared Mack "my guitar hero". Funk and Soul bassist-guitarist Bootsy Collins of Parliament-Funkadelic: "For me, at that time, Lonnie Mack was the master. Every note that mother played, was, like, 'Man!'. I would try to mimic all the notes he played. Same thing with brother Cat. A Lonnie Mack song come out, he'd learn it backwards and forwards". Hard rock lead guitarist Ted Nugent considers Mack one of the "eleven greatest guitarists of all time". When Nugent hosted a BBC music broadcast, the first two tunes he played were Mack instrumentals. In the mid-1960s, the American public's musical tastes shifted radically due to the initial, "pop" phase of the "British Invasion". However, at the same time, the "folk music" movement in the US and the popularity of Black American musical forms in both the US and the UK expanded the appeal of classic rural and urban blues among young whites of the baby boom generation.
  • 1964
    Age 22
    In early 1964, he released his debut album, "The Wham of that Memphis Man", also for Fraternity.
    More Details Hide Details In the mid-'60s he recorded additional singles for Fraternity and did R&B session work with James Brown, Freddie King, Joe Simon (musician) and others. His recognition as an emerging artist ramped up in late 1968, when the newly founded Rolling Stone Magazine published a retrospective review of his five-year-old Fraternity recordings, extolling his talents as a rock guitarist and gospel singer. He soon moved to Los Angeles to execute a three-album contract with Elektra Records. While recording for Elektra, he began performing in larger venues, including the Fillmore East and Fillmore West.
  • 1963
    Age 21
    In Skydog: The Duane Allman Story, guitarist Mike Johnstone recalled the impact of Mack's solos upon rock guitarists in 1963: "Now, at that time, there was a popular song on the radio called 'Memphis' – an instrumental by Lonnie Mack.
    More Details Hide Details It was the best guitar-playing I'd ever heard. All the guitar-players were saying 'How could anyone ever play that good? That's the new bar. That's how good you have to be now'". Prominent guitarists from a variety of popular music genres have acknowledged Mack's influence: Blues-rock guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan considered Mack a "very big influence". He honed his early guitar skills by playing along with "Wham!" ("the first record I ever owned") incessantly until his father finally destroyed the record. Young Vaughan simply bought another copy and resumed his practice. Regarding his own style, Vaughn said that Mack had "invented a lot of this stuff" and "I got a lot of the fast things I do from Lonnie". Three years before his death, he listed Mack first among the guitarists he had listened to, both as a youngster and as an adult.
    Still in 1963, two or three months after the release of "Memphis", Mack returned to the studio to cut additional recordings, including instrumentals, vocals, and ensemble tunes.
    More Details Hide Details In early 1964, Fraternity packaged several of these along with "Memphis", "Wham!", "Where There's a Will" and "Why?" into an album entitled The Wham of that Memphis Man! Mack's guitar instrumentals were blues-based, but unusually rapid, seamless, and precise. His vocals were strongly influenced by Black gospel music. All the tunes were backed by bass guitar and drums, and many also featured keyboards and a Stax/Volt-style horn section. The Charmaines provided an R&B backup chorus on several cuts. In The 100 Best Rock 'n' Roll Records of All Time, Jimmy Guterman ranked the album No. 16: According to the project's recording engineer, Chuck Seitz, the album was recorded in eight hours, entirely without overdubbing. The Wham of that Memphis Man! was released within weeks of the beginning of the British Invasion. Competing with the likes of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones was a challenge encountered by many, but Mack faced yet another: As observed by music critic John Morthland, "All the superior chops in the world couldn't hide the fact that chubby, country Mack probably had more in common with Kentucky truck drivers than he did with the new rock audience". He drifted back into relative obscurity until the late 1960s.
    Despite the de facto ban of Mack's vocal recordings on R&B radio stations, his 1963 cover version of Jimmy Reed's "Baby, What's Wrong" became a modest crossover pop hit (Billboard Pop, No. 93), particularly in the Midwest, Fraternity's traditional distribution market.
    More Details Hide Details In the 1970s, he recorded mostly country and rockabilly vocals, but resumed his prior emphasis on blues-based material in the 1980s. His mature singing style has been described as a "country-esque blues voice" and the "impassioned vocal style of a white Hoosier with a touch of Memphis soul". Examples from the 1980s include a rendition of T-Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday", Mack's soul ballad, "Stop", and a live, gospel-drenched version of Wilson Pickett's "I Found a Love".
    R&B radio stations throughout the South played Mack's gospel-inspired version of the soul ballad "Where There's a Will" in 1963.
    More Details Hide Details He was invited to give a live radio interview with a prominent R&B disc jockey in racially polarized Birmingham, Alabama. Mack said that when he appeared at the radio station, the DJ took one look at him and said, "Baby, you're the wrong color" and canceled the interview on the spot. He recalled that this incident marked a precipitous drop in the airplay time devoted to his vocal recordings on R&B radio stations. Fraternity reacted by delaying release of his deep soul ballad, "Why?" (recorded in 1963), as a single, until 1968, and then only as the "B" side of a re-release of "Memphis". "Why?" received scant notice and never charted, but was eventually recognized as a "lost masterpiece of rock 'n' roll". In 2009, music critic Greil Marcus called "Why?" a "soul ballad so torturous, so classically structured, that it can uncover wounds of your own. Mack's scream at the end has never been matched. God help us if anyone ever tops it".
    While Mack's first recording successes were instrumentals, his live performances typically included vocals as well, and in 1963 he recorded a number of tunes featuring his singing talents.
    More Details Hide Details These early "blue-eyed soul" vocal recordings were critically acclaimed. In 1968, after extolling Mack's talent as a guitarist, Rolling Stone said, "But it is truly the voice of Lonnie Mack that sets him apart. His songs have a sincerity and intensity that's hard to find anywhere". According to another review:
    Uniquely in early '60s rock, he played blistering leads and complex rhythm guitar simultaneously, prompting the observation that, to the modern listener, 1963's "Wham!" conjures images of "Stevie Ray Vaughan playing lead guitar for the early E Street Band".
    More Details Hide Details Mack's pioneering use of lightning-fast runs prefigured the virtuoso blues-rock lead guitar style that dominated rock by the late 1960s. He used his Bigsby vibrato tailpiece on "Wham!" (and many other recordings) to achieve sound effects so distinctive for the time that guitarists began calling it the "whammy bar", a term by which the Bigbsy and other vibrato bars are still known. He was singularly proficient with it. Guitarists typically manipulate the device with the picking hand immediately after picking out a run. Mack, however, customarily cradled it with the fourth finger of his picking hand, tugging on it while picking and occasionally fanning it rapidly (again, while still picking) to produce a marked "shuddering" sound.
    Still in 1963, Mack released "Wham!", a gospel-inspired guitar instrumental that reached No. 24 on Billboard's Pop chart in September.
    More Details Hide Details He also recorded several more rock-guitar solos in the style of "Memphis" and "Wham!", including his own frenzied showpiece, "Chicken Pickin'", and an instrumental version of Dale Hawkins's "Suzie Q". Although the term "blues-rock" had not yet come into common usage in 1963, "Memphis" and "Wham!" became widely regarded as the earliest genuine hit recordings of the virtuoso blues-rock guitar genre. In the mid-1950s, Mack experimented with the Fender Telecaster and Fender Stratocaster, before settling on the Gibson Les Paul guitar. In 1958, at age seventeen, he bought the seventh (serial number "007") Gibson Flying V guitar from that model's low-volume first-year production run. Dubbing his guitar "Number 7", he used it almost exclusively for the rest of his career. The instrument appealed to him because it sounded like his Les Paul, while its distinct, arrow-like shape symbolized pride in his Native American ancestry. He equipped Number 7 with a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece mounted on a steel bracket spanning the wings of the Flying V's body. He always used the heaviest guitar strings available, usually Gibson E340s.
    By the time "Memphis" was first broadcast, in the spring of 1963, Mack had already forgotten the impromptu recording session and was engaged in a nationwide performing tour with singer-songwriter Troy Seals.
    More Details Hide Details A friend located him on tour and told him his tune was climbing the charts. In a 1977 interview, Mack recalled, "I was completely taken by surprise. I hadn't listened to the radio. I had no idea what was happening". By late June, "Memphis" had risen to No. 4 on Billboard's R&B chart and No. 5 on Billboard's pop chart. The popularity of "Memphis" led to bookings at larger venues and a tour with Chuck Berry. According to musicologist Richard T. Pinnell, Ph.D., Mack's fast-paced interpretation of electric blues-guitar in "Memphis" was unprecedented in the history of rock guitar soloing to that point, producing a tune that was both "rhythmically and melodically full of fire" and "one of the milestones of early rock and roll guitar". The track sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA.
    Mack was a "ground-breaker" in virtuoso rock guitar soloing. In his 1963 hit singles, "Memphis" and "Wham!", he "attacked the strings with fast, aggressive single-string phrasing and a seamless rhythm style", to produce a previously-unheard sound that was "savagely wild but perfectly controlled".
    More Details Hide Details He never became a commercial superstar, but was widely influential as a rock guitarist. His early recordings formed the leading edge of the blues-rock lead guitar genre of the 1960s and have been called a "prototype" for the southern rock genre of the 1970s. Prominent guitarists who have credited him as a major influence include such diverse performers as the late Stevie Ray Vaughan (blues-rock), Jeff Beck (jazz-rock), Dickey Betts (southern rock), Ray Benson (western swing), Bootsy Collins (funk), and Ted Nugent (hard rock). He is also considered one of the finer blue-eyed soul singers of his era. Crediting Mack's vocals and guitar solos alike, music critic Jimmy Guterman ranked Mack's first album, "The Wham of that Memphis Man" (1964), No. 16 in his book The 100 Best Rock 'n' Roll Records of All Time.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1959
    Age 17
    Not expecting the tune to be released, Mack recorded a rockabilly/blues guitar instrumental grounded in the melody of Chuck Berry's 1959 UK vocal hit, "Memphis, Tennessee".
    More Details Hide Details He had improvised the guitar solo in a live performance a few years earlier, when his keyboardist, Dumpy Rice, who usually sang the tune, missed a club date. Mack's impromptu instrumental take on the Berry tune was so well-received that he adopted it as part of his live act. He called it "Memphis". Interviewed in 2011, the recording engineer on "Memphis", Chuck Seitz, recalled that it took ten minutes to "set up" and less than ten minutes to record the tune twice. As recorded in 1963, "Memphis" featured a then-unique combination of several key elements, including seven distinct sections and an unusually fast twelve-bar blues solo, all set to a rock beat. "An extended guitar solo exploiting the entire range of the instrument rings in the climax of the song in the fifth section. Lonnie Mack begins this portion by quoting several measures of the riff one octave higher than before. From there, he breaks into his choicest licks, including double-picking and pulling-off techniques — all with driving, complicated rhythms and technical precision".
    In 1959, he played guitar on two singles of "The Logan Valley Boys", a band featuring his older cousins, Aubrey Holt and Harley Gabbard.
    More Details Hide Details One was a bluegrass tune by The Stanley Brothers entitled "Too Late to Cry"; the other, "Hey, Baby", was an original Holt-Gabbard rockabilly tune with close-harmony bluegrass vocals. "Pistol-Packin' Mama" and "Too Late to Cry" have been unavailable for decades. However, "Hey, Baby" was reissued by Bear Family Records in 2010. On it, Mack can be heard providing a Travis-picking guitar accompaniment, punctuated by a brief rockabilly solo. In the early 1960s, Mack and his band (the name "Twilighters" had gone by the wayside) often worked as session players for Fraternity, a small record label in Cincinnati that rented the studios of King Records for its recording sessions. There, he played guitar on a number of singles by local R&B artists, including Max Falcon, Beau Dollar and the Coins, Denzil "Dumpy" Rice (who became the keyboardist in Mack's band), and Cincinnati's leading female R&B trio, The Charmaines.
  • 1958
    Age 16
    In 1958, Mack (backed by The Twilighters) recorded a cover of Al Dexter's 1944 western swing hit, "Pistol Packin' Mama".
    More Details Hide Details
    By the age of seventeen, in 1958, he was using the stage-name "Lonnie Mack".
    More Details Hide Details He and his band, "The Twilighters" were performing regularly in the "Tri-State Area" around Cincinnati, playing both rockabilly and R&B-tinged rock and roll. He played guitar on three low-circulation singles in the late 1950s.
  • 1954
    Age 12
    Mack dropped out of school in 1954, at the age of thirteen, after a fight with a teacher.
    More Details Hide Details Using a fake ID, he soon began performing in roadhouses in the Cincinnati area. While still in his mid-teens, performing as "Lonnie McIntosh", he was in a band called "The Classics", with recurring engagements at the Hideaway Lounge in Hamilton, Ohio. "He was too young to drive, so Don Garland, the keyboard player, used to pick him up to play."
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1941
    Born
    One of five children, he was born to parents Robert and Sarah Sizemore McIntosh on July 18, 1941, in West Harrison, Indiana.
    More Details Hide Details He was raised nearby on small farms along the Ohio River. Although his childhood homes had no electricity, the family used a primitive radio powered by a truck battery to listen to "The Grand Ole Opry" radio show. Young Mack continued to listen after the rest of the family had retired for the night, and became a fan of R&B and gospel music. He began playing at the age of seven, after he'd traded a bicycle for an acoustic guitar. While still a youngster, he played his guitar for tips at a hobo jungle and on the sidewalk outside of the Nieman Hotel in nearby Aurora, Indiana. Mack stated: He had many early musical influences. His mother, Sarah, was his earliest guitar and country-singing influence. Ralph Trotto, a local gospel singer, became his earliest musical mentor. An uncle taught him how to merge a "Travis-picking" (Merle Travis) country sound with traditional blues styles.
Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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