Lonnie Mack Tribute 11 p.m. Saturday On WVXU

Apr 22, 2016

Lonnie Mack performing at Rising Sun, Ind.
Credit Russell House

Updated 4/28/16: WVXU-FM will repeat a Lonnie Mack 70th birthday blues special at 11 p.m. Saturday as a tribute to the legendary guitarist who died April 21 near his Nashville home.

The one-hour special, produced by Lee Hay, was originally broadcast July 16, 2011.  Here's her description of the 2011 program:

"From Indiana and a well-known guitarist in clubs around the area for many years, Lonnie Mack… now resides in Nashville and rarely makes personal appearances these days.

"Included in the special is background information from music historian Brian Powers and stories from guitarist Stuart Holman who played with Lonnie Mack during the '70s.

"Holman also talks with 92-year-old Chuck Seitz, who was the recording engineer at King Records during the recording of Lonnie Mack's famous song, "Memphis" and his first album, "The Wham of That Memphis Man!" in 1963."

Original post 4/22/2016: Aurora native Lonnie Mack, "a guitar icon" from Cincinnati who recorded at King Records, died Thursday near his home outside of Nashville. He was 74.

"The phrase is over-used, but Lonnie was truly a guitar icon," said Randy McNutt, a former record producer and Enquirer reporter who wrote about Mack in two books, "The Cincinnati Sound" and "Guitar Towns."

The New York Times once praised him in a story saying: "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," according to Guitar World.

Mack was inducted into the International Guitar Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2005, although his style was usually described as "blues-rock." See for yourself, in this video of him playing his song "Stop."

Born in 1941, Mack dropped out of school at age 14 to begin his career as a musician, McNutt said. His first hit was an instrumental version of "Memphis," by Chuck Berry, recorded at King Records for Cincinnati's Fraternity label in 1963. He followed it with another instrumental, "Wham!"

"If you are a certain age, and grew up here in the 1960s and '70s, you heard him a lot. WSAI-AM played him all the time," McNutt said.

Mack later signed with several major national labels, including Elektra, Capitol and the Chicago-based Alligator Records. His blues-rock style influenced Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Duane Allman and others, according to WSMV-TV in Nashville.

Mack toured extensively in the 1960s and '70s. "He told me that he wore out three Cadillacs in just a couple of years," said McNutt, who last saw him at a local musicians' reunion last June in Harrison.

In the early 1980s, he experienced a resurgence on Alligator Records with the release of his "Strike Like Lightning" album, McNutt said. Guitar World called his re-emergence "a major music industry event," with Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Ry Cooder and Stevie Ray Vaughan joining Mack on stage during his 1985 tour. Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, Eddie Van Halen and Dwight Yoakam also saw his "Strike Like Lightning" tour, which included a show at New York's Carnegie Hall, Guitar World said.

By the late '80s, Mack moved to Smithfield, TN, near Nashville. He died of natural causes Thursday at Centennial Medical Center in Nashville.

He is survived by five children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Services have not been announced.