The great blues guitarist and vocalist Lonnie Mack has died. He was 74. And – there’s no other way to say it – he won’t get the column inches he might have otherwise deserved due to news of his passing being overshadowed by the death of Prince.
Lonnie Mack won’t be on everyone’s radar – but he deserves a shout. His music deserves your ears. To this day. And when I say his music – we are talking about an incredible multi-instrumentalist, chances are you heard him without even knowing it.
He was a bassist for The Doors. He was a blues/R’n’B guitarist making instrumental hits to begin with – but when he put his voice to record too he opened up worlds of gospel and country music influence as well as – always – the blues.
I guess I first heard about him via Stevie Ray Vaughan. He was a big influence on Stevie and SRV repaid the debt of gratitude by putting Mack back on the map via the Strike Like Lightning album. It arrived after a few lean years for Lonnie and it hit right when Stevie was at his biggest and best, it featured SRV’s co-production and playing and though there’s plenty of other Lonnie Mack you must hear if you start hear it certainly isn’t the wrong place to get your journey going. Just make sure you head back to the WHAM of when his twangy, surfy, blues guitar instrumentals delivered the goods. (In fact so many of my other guitar heroes – and notably Jeff Beck – loved what Lonnie did, I got to his sound through hearing about the magic first, then hearing the magic).
And as dirty a hybrid genre and hyphenated word as ‘Blues-Rock’ most often is Lonnie Mack was one of the great heroes and proponents. He had that shit locked down because he was schooled in country, gospel and R’n’B as a singer and he could burn on the guitar. There are tributes to him about of course, but perhaps not as many as their could/should be. So I just wanted to mention him here. Because when I was in my teenage years and obsessed with all things guitar Lonnie Mack was on my stereo a lot. And I still go back to the Lightning album and to a couple of his stinging live dates and to that stuff from the 1960s.
His music always makes me smile