Wham, bam – Lonnie Mack was the blue-eyed soul man! Les Davidson tips his own hat to a recently-departed but seminal bluesman.
As we lose yet another legendary guitarist we pay homage to the great Lonnie Mack. Born Lonnie McIntosh in 1941, Mack was an influential blues guitarist and so-called ‘blue-eyed soul’ singer from West Harrison, Indiana. Lonnie’s early life was spent in a rural farming community with no electric power. He recalls that both his mother and father played and sang country music and powered up their radio from a tractor battery so they could listen to the Grand Ole Opry, broadcast from Nashville. Lonnie started playing guitar at age seven and it wasn’t long before he was playing for pennies outside a local hotel.
His early influences included some of the most important blues, country and jazz players and numbered among them Merle Travis, Jimmie Rogers, Jimmy Reed, Hank Williams, Les Paul and T-Bone Walker.
It wasn’t long before Lonnie was making something of a name for himself locally, and by the time he was in his early teens he had dropped out of school and was essentially a pro guitar player. His first recordings were for the Esta Label and he had a few cuts released, most notably Pistol Packin Mama.
Throughout the 1960s, Lonnie had a regular band and was splitting his time performing and recording for various other artists. His big break came in 1963 when he released two seminal cuts that arguably helped to change the face of guitar playing: the mighty Memphis and Wham.
On both of these instrumentals Lonnie displayed a remarkable dexterity in his soloing, coupled with double-stops and a powerful and direct guitar sound that grabbed the listeners attention. It’s safe to say that
lonnie spent his early life in a rural farming community; they powered the family radio from a tractor battery
Lonnie ensured that rock guitar would never be the same again!
The list of world-class players that cites Lonnie as an influence is enormous and includes such legends as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Keith Richards, Ry Cooder, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and Ted Nugent. Lonnie continued to record and tour right up until 2010 and his legacy will be a benchmark for many new generations of upcoming guitarists.
Lonnie tended to tune down a semitone to Eb.
However, for the sake of continuity the following examples employ regular tuning.
Lonnie Mack’s Flying V helped to inspire a raft of great players