Lonnie Mack Was A Rock Guitar Pioneer



lonniemackLost in the news about Prince last week was word that Lonnie Mack had passed away at the age of 74. He was an important player in the development of Rock music, so we’ve gotta give him his due here at Rocknuts.

Lonnie Mack bridged the gap between the rockabilly or country-tinged guitar solos of the early rock & roll era, and the more blues-inspired guitar solos of the Rock era. He hit it big in 1963, at a time when most pop guitar solos were based on country influences, like George Harrison’s solo in “All My Loving”.

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Listen to this Lonnie Mack track “Wham” that also charted in 1963. He deals out these blues licks that have been adapted for the high-energy rock and roll sound. Listen to how many of his licks were borrowed by Rock guitarists down the line. Lots of sustain, recorded hot and up front, and he pioneered the use of the whammy bar, giving the guitar a gritty texture the rockabilly players couldn’t deliver.

Lonnie Mack bought one of the first Gibson Flying V guitars ever made, and turned it into his trademark throughout his career. He was essentially one of the first players to bring the guitar to the forefront of Rock, in effect updating Chuck Berry and setting the table for the guitar gods who were to follow.

Listen to his take on “Memphis”. He took it to a similar place that Chuck Berry did, but then pushed it further on a longer and more complex solo. Lonnie Mack was also a helluva good singer, and his song “Why” was called one of the all-time great Rock vocals by the dean of Rock journalists, Greil Marcus. When you listen to this track, you could easily say that Mack helped pioneer Rock vocals too.

But Lonnie Mack was just a country boy at heart, and he hated the music business, so he never really capitalized on his early-60s successes. In 1969 Elektra re-released The Wham Of That Memphis Man, and he became more of a cult hero for the Rock generation.

Stevie Ray Vaughan said Lonnie Mack was his biggest influence, and he revived his career in the 1980s. In 1985 Mack went on tour and was joined in various concerts by Vaughan, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Ry Cooder, Albert Collins and Roy Buchanan, all of whom cited Mack’s influence. If you can find concert footage from these shows, the guitar playing will leave you speechless.

So raise a glass if you can for another old Rock warrior who shouldn’t be forgotten.

One comment on “Lonnie Mack Was A Rock Guitar Pioneer
  1. Lonnie Mack
    Being the subject at hand here…. my father..was truly the 1st of many aspects of the biz of music anyways (sorry dad) and an inventor of machines, styles of merging musical sounds, tunings and taking one instrument and making be an entire band by himself. Not to mention a great producer teacher and singer and as he hated a leader in the creation of how the bizness of entertainment industry is
    I love you and you will always be remembered missed and admired. Until i see you again.
    Love, Holly

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