Lonnie Mack is a roadhouse blues-rock legend - modern rock's first true guitar hero. His playing has influenced the
course of rock and roll and had an impact on many of modern rock's current guitar heroes, including Eric Clapton,
Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and especially Stevie Ray Vaughan. His early music bridged the gap between '50s rockabilly
and the psychedelic blues-rock of the following decade, and, like the best rock and roll, his work continues to embody
a mixture of white and black roots music. Rock, blues, soul and country - Lonnie brings them all together for a sound
that has been all his own for nearly thirty years.
His Alligator Records release, LIVE! ATTACK OF THE KILLER V (AL 4786), features material from the entire span
of Lonnie's career. Included are live versions of some of his earliest songs from the Fraternity label as well as
material from his Alligator and Epic recordings and two newly written compositions. Recorded at one of Chicago's hottest
clubs and co-produced by Lonnie and Alligator president Bruce lglauer, the new album is Lonnie's first-ever live recording.
Playing with Lonnie on the new record is his long-time associate, keyboardist Dumpy Rice, as well as a crack, young
Lonnie was born in 1941 in Harrison, Indiana - some twenty miles west of Cincinnati. From family sing-alongs he developed
a love of country music, while he absorbed rhythm and blues from the late-night black radio stations and gospel from his
local church. Starting off with a few chords that he learned from his mother, Lonnie gradually blended all the sounds he
heard around him into his own individual style.
He began playing professionally in his early teens (he quit school after a fight with his sixth-grade teacher), working
clubs and roadhouses around the tri-state border area of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. In 1958, he bought the guitar he
still plays today - Gibson Flying V serial number 7. In addition to his live gigs, Lonnie began playing sessions for the
King and Fraternity labels in Cincinnati. He recorded with blues and r&b greats like Hank Ballard, Freddie King and
In 1963, at the end of another artist's session, Lonnie cut an instrumental version of Chuck Berry's "Memphis." He didn't
even know that Fraternity had issued the single until he heard it on the radio, and within a few weeks "Memphis" had hit
the national Top 5! Lonnie Mack went from being a talented regional roadhouse player to a national star virtually overnight.
Suddenly, he was booked for hundreds of gigs a year, crisscrossing the country in his Cadillac and rushing back to Cincinnati
or Nashville to cut new singles. "Wham!," "Where There's A Will There's A Way," "Chicken Pickin'" and a dozen other records
followed "Memphis." None sold as well as his first hit (though "Where There's A Will" earned extensive black radio airplay
before the DJs found out Lonnie was white!), but there was enough reaction to keep him on the road for another five years of
Fraternity Records died, but Lonnie kept on gigging, and in 1968 a Rolling Stone article stimulated new interest in his music.
He signed with Elektra Records and cut three albums. Elektra also reissued his original Fraternity LP, THE WHAM OF THAT MEMPHIS
MAN (now available on Alligator Records). He began playing all the major rock venues, from Fillmore East to Fillmore West/
Lonnie also made a guest appearance on the Doors' MORRISON HOTEL album. You can hear Lonnie's guitar solo on "Roadhouse Blues,"
preceded by Jim Morrison's urgent "Do it, Lonnie! Do it!" He even worked in Elektra's A&R department. When the label merged with
giant Warner Brothers, however, Lonnie grew disgusted with the new bureaucracy and walked out of his prestigious job.
He headed back to rural Indiana, playing back-country bars, going fishing and laying low. After five years of relative obscurity,
Lonnie signed with Capitol and cut two albums that featured his country influences. He played on the West Coast for a while and
even flew to Japan for a Save The Whales benefit. Then he headed to New York to team up with an old friend named Ed Labunski.
Labunski was a wealthy jingle writer (he wrote "This Bud's For You") who was tired of commercials and wanted to write and play
for pleasure. He and Lonnie built a studio in rural Pennsylvania and spent three years organizing and recording a country-rock
band called South, which included Buffalo-based keyboardist Stan Szelest, who later played on Lonnie's Alligator debut. Ed
and Lonnie had big plans for their partnership, including producing an album by a then-obscure Texas guitarist named Stevie Ray
Vaughan. But the plans evaporated when Labunski died in an auto accident, and the South album was never commercially released.
Disheartened, Lonnie headed for Canada and joined the band of veteran rocker Ronnie Hawkins for a summer. After a brief stay
in Florida, he returned to Indiana in 1982, playing clubs in Cincinnati and the surrounding area.
Lonnie began his re-emergence on the national scene in November of 1983. At Stevie Ray Vaughan's urging, he relocated from
southern Indiana to Austin, Texas. He began jamming with Stevie Ray in local clubs and flying to New York for gigs at the Lone
Star and the Ritz. When Alligator Records approached him to do an album, Lonnie immediately called on Vaughan to help him out.
The result was STRIKE LIKE LIGHTNING (AL 4739), co-produced by Lonnie and Stevie Ray and featuring Stevie's guitar on several
tracks. "We went for Lonnie's original sounds here," Vaughan said. The joint effort was one of 1985's best selling independent
records and topped many critics' "Best Of" list for that year.
Lonnie's re-emergence was a major music industry event. Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Ry Cooder and Stevie Ray Vaughan all joined
Lonnie on stage during his '85 tour. Other celebrities - Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Paul Simn, Eddie Van Halen, Dwight Yoakum,
actor Matt Dillon and comedienne Sandra Bernhard - attended shows during the STRIKE LIKE LIGHTNING tour. The year was
capped off with a stellar performance at New York's prestigious Carnegie Hall with label-mates Albert Collins and the late
Roy Buchanan. That show recently aired on Britain's BBC-TV and is currently available as a home video cassette entitled
"Further On Down The Road."
His Alligator follow-up, SECOND SIGHT (AL 4750), highlighted Lonnie's continuing evolution as a musician and singer/songwriter.
He self-produced the album and wrote eight of the ten tunes. The album spotlighted his cured-in-the-wood vocals more than
STRIKE LIKE LIGHTNING but also included a healthy dose of Lonnie's burning Flying V.
Lonnie's re-found visibility earned him a contract with Epic Records, and in 1988 that label released Lonnie's ROADHOUSES
AND DANCEHALLS album. Critics applauded the recording, but CBS didn't know quite how to market it. They tried to force it
onto a country music niche, ignoring its roots-rock and r&b influences. Not able to push the album to its full sales
potential, Epic let the project slide from the top of its priority list. Lonnie, again disenchanted with the major label
scenario, began making plans for his return to Alligator.
Lonnie Mack's career traces the history of rock and roll. Drawing from influences as diverse as rhythm and blues, country,
gospel and rockabilly, Lonnie has won the hearts of fans worldwide. He is revered by a new generation of rock performers.
He has played everywhere from tiny roadhouse clubs to huge rock showcases and national television. He has recorded for
major labels and indies alike.
LIVE! ATTACK OF THE KILLER V tells the Lonnie Mack story better than any of his previous albums. It's Lonnie at his
best - classic songs, new tunes, audience favorites. It's a live celebration of
one of rock and roll's greatest careers.
Publicity: Ken Morton, Alligator Records, (312) 973-7736
Management: James Webber, M.M.&T., (707) 964-1357
Booking: David Hickey, David Hickey Agency, (817) 346-6666
What They Say About Lonnie...
". . . legendary, blistering rock and roll guitar . . . fiery . . . awe-inspiring playing . . . pioneering contributions to
modern rock . . . raw, powerful phrasing and screaming, single-note climaxes . . . expert, soulful singing . . . the original
(and still the best) white blues-rocker."
- Guitar Player
"Rock's great lost guitar hero . . . a fiery player . . . his dexterity is undiminshed by time . . . one of the most soulful,
compelling singers alive . . . ferocious rock to straight blues."
- Rolling Stone
". . . electric bolts of modern blues . . . authentic, no bull workouts . . . frenetic solos, wonderful, raspy vocals and
eclectic influences . . . scorching instrumentals."
". . . modest virtuosity . . . a guitar legend . . . roadhouse music at the top of its form."
- Village Voice
". . . a guitar hotshot . . . a singular vocal stylist, his voice mixes gritty conviction with heartache vulnerability . . .
Mack would be a musical treasure even if he never played guitar . . . a blazing instrumentalist who can make two hands
do the work of eight. He doesn't so much move from country to blues to r&b to rock 'n' roll as blend them all into a
distinctly Southern style that bears his personal stamp."
- Chicago Sun Times
"Lonnie Mack launched the modern guitar era 26 years ago. He took the rough, country-inspired rockabilly style of the
'50s and rocketed it into the future. He plays it hot, with screaming single-note sustains and shuddering vibrato."
- Chicago Tribune
"Mack's guitar work is magnificent . . . a great voice, an intense, personable presence and a style which blends
country-gospel with the blues. Mack is so good, so pure, so devastatingly strong on the guitar that one wonders who
bothered to 'discover' Stevie Ray Vaughan - or Johnny Winter for that matter."
- San Francisco Examiner
"Stunning buzzing guitar and gospel-drenched blues-rock vocals . . . packs a wallop that time has not diminished."
- San Francisco Chronicle
". . . sharp, keening leads and gravelly singing . . . his vocals nearly define country soul . . . stinging slow blues
that has plenty of feel and fire."
- Boston Globe
REVIEW: "Roadhouses and Dance Halls"
RollingStone - December 1, 1988
LONNIE MACK IS ROCK'S GREAT LOST guitar hero. The Wham of That Memphis Man - the Indiana singer, guitarist and songwriter's
1963 landmark album - made room for everything from ferocious rock to straight blues to sorrowful country, and Mack's impassioned,
daring soul crying proved he could bend and twist notes with his voce as well as he could with his guitar.
"Roadhouses and Dance Halls" is the third album Mack has recorded since he regained his form, and it may be the pick of the lot.
With strong support from his touring band, as well as fellow guitar virtuoso David Lindley on slide and Muscle Shoals
masters Barry Beckett and Roger Hawkins, Mack convinces at every turn. Much of the writing is semiautobiographical: the
frankly rocking "Too Rock For Country, Too Country For Rock and Roll" aptly describes Mack's career dilemma. At forty-seven,
Mack remains a fiery player and a compelling singer and bandleader, immune to trends and ready to play hard.
- Jimmy Guterman
© Rockabilly Hall of Fame ®