His stage name was Lonnie Mack.
His birth name was Lonnie McIntosh.
He was born in West Harrison, Indiana.
He lived in Smithville, Tennessee in a log house.
He died at Nashville’s Centennial Hospital of old age on April 21, 2019.
He is buried at River View Cemetery in Aurora, Indiana.
The septuagenarian was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He was influential in the development of blues rock music and rock guitar soloing.
His favorite musical instrument was a Gibson Flying V guitar, which resembled the letter “V.” He said, “What I wanted was the weirdest guitar I could find.” And it was. It resembled a miniature silver pointed space rocket!
“The 80s guitar hero’s early singles laid the groundwork for blues-rock and influenced generations of players, including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, Duane Allman, Dickey Betts, and Stevie Ray Vaughn (see below).
Lonnie Mack described his music as “a little bit of everything – there’s country, blues, rock ‘n’ roll, some bluegrass and Cajun with a little uptown jazz.” No matter the genre, it was clear that Mack, who was born Lonnie McIntosh in West Harrison, Indiana on July 18, 1941 was a “guitarist’s” guitarist. His first two singles, 1963s “Memphis” and “Wham!” laid the groundwork for blues-rock and influenced generations of players, as listed above. Stevie Ray Vaughn co-produced Mack’s 1985 comeback album, “Strike Like Lightning.”
According to “The Rolling Stone” magazine, “Many of the blues-minded guitarists 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 – also frequently cites Mack as a founding influence; Richards, Ry Cooder, and Woods would make onstage appearances during Mack’s “Strike Like Lightning” tour.”
By late June, 1963, his “Memphis” guitar instrumental was #4 on Billboard’s R & B chart and #5 on the pop chart. The follow-up “Wham!” was Mack’s first major artistic statement and captured the birth of his signature tone. While peaking upwards and downwards, Mack continued utilizing his verbal and his non-verbal musical talent. He played in Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky throughout his later years.
“Lonnie was a country boy and talked more about fishing and farming than he did about guitar playing or music, but he had a deep well of knowledge about music,” quoted “Rolling Stone” magazine, “He could sing and play just about any song you could think of. His band was well-rehearsed and excellent.”
Earlier, Mack was accidentally shot by a police officer while crossing the street. He said, “I was shot in the ass by an off-duty detective. Another inch and one-half, and I would have been singing soprano, he continued, “The bullet went right through as I was just walking down the street. These guys were acting drunk and crazy. In the end, they put me in the Cincinnati jail.”
Mack was quirky in the way of many creative persons. Reportedly, when he cut his final album with Elektra in Nashville, he brought his family with him and they slept together in a dilapidated school bus outside the Elektra Studios in Nashville.
In the early 2000s, Mack began doing world tours when diabetes and worsening general health caused him to semi-retire. He relocated to a farm in Smithville, about an hour east of Nashville. Mack died at the Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, located near his home in Smithville of natural causes, especially diabetes. He was 72 years old.
In the obituary section of “The Nashville Tennessean” daily newspaper, the following article was printed on April 22, 2016 (almost eight-years-ago): “Influential rock guitarist Lonnie Mack died Thursday at his home in Smithville, Tenn. He was 74-years-old. His pioneering electric guitar work – heard on gritty instrumental favorites “Memphis” and “Wham!” – inspired many generations of rock guitarists, among them Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards. Mr. Mack was raised in rural Indiana and cut many of his classic recordings between Cincinnati and Nashville. In the 2000s, he relocated to Smithville, Tennessee and retired from the road, but continued to make music.”
“In 2001, he was inducted into the International Guitar Hall of Fame, and joined the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2005.” Consequently, he also received many numerous minute music awards through the years. Mack cited Merle Travis and Robert Ward (bandmate from Ohio) as his main guitar influences; George Jones and Bobby “Blue” Bland as his vocal inspirations. Also, he quit school in the sixth grade when he and his teacher had a fight. Later, he began playing working clubs and roadhouses in the above-mentioned states and he began playing professionally in his early teens after his school/teacher encounter while enrolled in an Indiana educational facility.
Mack was married and divorced three times! He is survived by two sisters, Audrey Pratt and Burlus Britton; a brother, Bill McIntosh; three sons, George Mack, Harry McIntosh, and Eric Wilson; two daughters, Holly McIntosh and Lonita Coldwell; eight grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
Mack was booked for hundreds of gigs a year, crisscrossing the country in his Cadillac. He would then hurriedly return to Tennessee to cut his new single recordings. Not to mention, physically and vocally servicing many scattered bars and nightclubs. In 1985, he re- emerged as a major music veteran only to plunge again. To backtrack during 1963, the primary and most important reason for his demise in the music industry was because of the tremendously overpowering appearance of England’s The Beatles on the now defunct Ed Sullivan television show on CBS.
To quote Mack’s musical friend, Bootsy Collins in a 1923 interview, “The songs that he did were just so incredible to me. I would try to mimic all the notes he would play on his guitar,” Collins said. “His records - I know every one of them. I couldn’t wait for them to come out, then the guitar players of the day would see who could play it the best.” And that included Keith Richards of today’s musical prodigies, The Rolling Stones.
In conclusion, “The New York Times” newspaper further elaborated, “Although Mr. Mack can play every finger-twisting blues guitar lick, he doesn’t show off; he comes up with sustained melodies and uses fast licks only at an emotional peak. Mr. Mack is also a thoroughly convincing singer.”
Upon his return to Smithville during the later years, he enjoyed living in an old rural hand-hewn log house. This was the last formative location of Mack’s life. He and Prince, singer and songwriter, died on the same day, thus causing all media coverage to generate toward the young, black entertainer. Mack was buried in Riverview Cemetery outside of Aurora, Colorado. Mack’s greatest supporter, Stevie Ray Vaughan, died on August 27, 1990 in East Troy, Wisconsin at age 35 in a helicopter accident caused by “pilot error.” His other close friend and advisor is Keith Richards, an English musician, songwriter, singer, and record producer of the Rolling Stones! Mack’s songwriting partnership with the band’s lead vocalist, Mick Jagger, is one of the most successful in history.