Lonnie Mack, super blues-rock guitar, died at 74

Lonnie Mack, the blues-rock pioneer who influenced an entire generation of guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Duane Allman, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards, died Thursday at a medical facility near his home in Smithville, Tennessee. Mack was 74 years old. Alligator Records has confirmed the death of the great guitarist, adding that Mack died of natural causes.

In Mack’s biography, he claims that he started learning the guitar at the age of five and, after dropping out of school in grade 7, pursued a professional music career as a young teenager. He performed in bars in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky before signing with Cincinnati’s Fraternity Records. Mack has also been a session guitarist for artists including James Brown, Hank Ballard, and Freddie King.

Mack’s 1963 LP This man’s Wham from Memphis!, recorded for Cincinnati-based Fraternity Records, praised Mack’s instrumental rendition of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis”, which became a surprise Billboard Top Five hit. Mack quickly became known for his blue-eyed soul singing style and virtuoso guitar skills that straddled genres like country, blues and R&B and, as Rolling stone noted in a 1968 review, “a pioneer of the rock guitar solo”.

This man’s Wham from Memphis!the single “Wham!” also found the guitarist making revolutionary use of a Bigsby tremolo bar which he added to his Flying V brand guitar; Due to his work on the album, the Bigsby tremolo bar has been unofficially nicknamed the “Whammy bar” by a generation of guitarists. “No one can play with a whammy-bar like Lonnie. He holds it while he plays and the sound chills your spine,” Mack’s sidekick Stevie Ray Vaughan would later say.

Mack was also well known for his 1958 Gibson Flying V guitar, an instrument that the teenage Mack had specifically ordered from a Cincinnati music store because it looked like an arrow. After receiving the instrument from the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Mack realized that the guitar had the serial number # 007; this guitar remained Mack’s main instrument for the rest of his six-decade career.

After the closure of Fraternity Records, which put many of Mack’s early records on hold, the guitarist maintained a grueling touring schedule for years until a bright November 1968. Rolling stone review of The Wham led to a resurgence of Mack’s work, including high profile concerts at Fillmore East and West and a deal with Elektra Records; the following year, Mack contributed bass guitar to the Doors Morrison Hotel songs “Roadhouse Blues” and “Maggie M’Gill”.

During the 1970s, Mack moved away from the music industry widely until longtime fan Vaughan convinced Mack to move from Indiana to Austin, Texas in the early 1980s, an collaboration that culminated in Mack’s remarkable 1985 LP. Strike like lightning.

Although largely unknown to the general public, Mack’s influence on an entire generation of guitarists is vital: Duane Allman and Dickie Betts of the Allman Brothers both admired Mack; “Lonnie is one of the greatest players I know. He’s always had a big influence on me, ”Betts said.

Many blues-minded guitarists who formed the backbone of the British invasion and modern rock n ‘roll – Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Ronnie Wood, John Mayall and more – have also frequently cited Mack as a founding influence. ; Richards, Wood and Ry Cooder to make appearances on stage at Mack’s Strike like lightning tower.

Bootsy Collins of Parliament-Funkadelic called Mack his musical idol. “The songs he did were so amazing to me. I was trying to emulate all the notes he played on his guitar, ”Collins said. “His records, I knew them all. I couldn’t wait for them to come out… When some guitarists like Lonnie Mack came out, the guitarists of the time would see who could play it best.

Mack has been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the International Guitar Hall of Fame.


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