“Im just your fool…but I love you.
And if I’m a fool, then that’s what I’ll be.
But you’ve got to stop…hurting me.”
Many guitar legends, from Dick Dale to Roy Buchanan to Carlos Santana, find trouble gaining mass popularity due to the transitory nature of singers who are not the frontmen of the band. This has not plagued Indiana-born Lonnie Mack. His legendary Flying V with Bigsby tremolo is the star of the show, but he is also a growling soul belter whose voice is one of great expression and influence. He began his career in the 1950’s on Fraternity Records releasing Booker T and the MG’s style soul instrumentals, the most famous being “Wham!”, a song covered famously by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. He continued to make albums blurring the lines between Soul, Rock N Roll, Surf and Rockabilly stylings. After a series of country albums for Capitol Records in the early 1970s, Lonnie dropped out of music altogether until a new friend convinced him to record again.
Stevie Ray Vaughan had met Lonnie at the Rome Inn in Austin well before becoming a star in his own right. They struck up a fast friendship and a few years later, in 1985, Lonnie had been convinced to join Vaughan in the studio to make an album for Chicago upstart Alligator Records, new home of blues legends Albert Collins and Koko Taylor. The sessions, produced by Vaughan, were organic affairs made even more epic by the songwriting of Lonnie Mack and the twin guitar attack that influenced such songs as ‘Satisfy Suzie’ and ‘Oreo Cookie Blues’.
‘Stop’ was meant to the be the showstopper of the album and continues to be a staple of Mack’s infrequent live gigs. The classic Mack sound on guitar created some memorable riffs and lead lines, while the vocal delievered a never-before-heard passion from the 44 year old Mack’s well oiled voice. The difference in this album from those that preceded was marked and following releases used this album, and ‘Stop’ especially, as the benchmark of quality to follow. The album was released in 1985 and became one of the best selling independent releases of the 1980’s and continues to be Alligator Records best seller of all time.
While albums like “Live Attack of the Killer V” and “Roadhouses and Dancehalls” kept Mack in the public eye, his live appearances became more infrequent, whether by coincidence or not, after the 1990 death of friend Stevie Ray Vaughan. This author can attest, after seeing Mack live in Philadelphia in 1994, that he is one of the best blues guitarists of all time and should be enshrined as such. His playing has informed generations of rock guitarists and created the ‘blues soul’ genre, yet proving once again that a great musician needs a great song to really shine.