Born Lonnie McIntosh, 18 July 1941, West Harrison, Indiana
Guitarist, singer, songwriter.
Lonnie Mack was an influential guitarist with an amazing technique, credited by many critics as the founder of blues rock, with a style that blended early rockabilly with blues, country and 1960s rock. Guitar players who have acknowledged him as an influence include Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Mack started playing guitar at the age of seven, after he had traded a bicycle for an acoustic guitar. He acquired his first electric guitar at eleven. Early influences were Merle Travis, Les Paul and T-Bone Walker. Lonnie dropped out of school at age 13 and soon started performing in roadhouses in the Cincinnati area. By 1958 he was using the stage name Lonnie Mack and had his own band, the Twilighters, who recorded “Pistol Packin’ Mama” for the small Esta label out of Hamilton, Ohio (1958, lead singer unknown).
In the early 1960s Mack and some of his band members started doing session work for two Cincinnati labels, King (James Brown, Freddie King, Hank Ballard) and Fraternity. At the tail end of a Fraternity session backing up the girl group The Charmaines in March 1963, Lonnie was offered the remaining twenty minutes of studio-rental time. Not expecting the tune to be released, Mack recorded an instrumental version of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis Tennessee” in an ingenious arrangement that he had already tried at live performances. Then he hit the road for a tour with singer-songwriter Troy Seals (who would wed Jo Ann Campbell in 1964 - they are still married today). During the tour a friend told Lonnie that his record (released as simply “Memphis”) was climbing the charts, to his great surprise. By late June 1963 “Memphis” had risen to # 5 on the pop charts and # 4 on the R&B charts. It is now considered one of the all-time great rock instrumentals and quite innovative for its time. “Wham!” was a solid follow-up, which peaked at # 24 (pop). In November 1963 Fraternity released an 11-track LP, “The Wham Of That Memphis Man”, containing six instrumentals and five (bluesy) vocal tracks by Lonnie. It reached # 103 on the album charts and has been reissued several times, both on vinyl and on CD. The Jimmy Reed number “Baby What’s Wrong” (drawn from the LP) was another chart entry (# 93, his only vocal hit), as was “Honky Tonk ’65” (# 78). That was Mack’s last chart entry, but by no means the end of his career.
After leaving Fraternity in 1968, Lonnie recorded for Elektra (emphasizing his vocal work), releasing three albums in a short span of time. When Elektra was taken over by giant Warner Brothers, Lonnie grew disgusted with the new bureaucracy and left the label. He temporarily retired from music in 1971, but not for long. During the 1970s he recorded mostly country and rockabilly songs, but he resumed his prior emphasis on blues-based material in the 1980s. “Strike Like Lightning” on Alligator (1985, recorded with Stevie Ray Vaughan) was a strong comeback album (after another sabbatical), which brought Mack back in the spotlight. It was followed by two more Alligator releases, “Second Sight” (1986) and his first live album (“Attack Of the Killer V - Live!”, 1989). During the years 1990-2004 he continued to tour America and Europe (on and off), but, apart from a few guest appearances on recordings by other artists, he hardly released any new material. Thereafter he appeared sporadically at benefit concerts and special events.
Lonnie Mack died of natural causes on April 21, 2016, at a country hospital near his log-cabin home in Tennessee.
More info :
Discography : http://wdd.mbnet.fi/lonniemack.htm
Three Ace CDs that complement each other nicely : - Memphis Wham (Ace CDCHD 713, 1999). Reissue of the 1963 “The Wham Of That Memphis Man” LP plus 13 extra tracks, consisting of rare singles and previously unissued tracks.
Acknowledgements : Wikipedia, Bill Millar, Bill Dahl.
Dik, November 2016
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