A celebration of life for guitar legend – and DeKalb County resident – Lonnie Mack will be held on Saturday, May 7, at 6:00 p.m., at the DeKalb County Community Center theatre. The celebration will include music tributes, stories about the music legend and much more. There is no admission charge, but donations will be accepted at the event for the James Burton Foundation, which awards scholarships and guitars to enable young musicians to get their start, in memory of Lonnie.
Lonnie Mack was born Lonnie McIntosh on July 18, 1941, in Dearborn County, Indiana. He grew up influenced by a wide variety of music, ranging from the Stanley Brothers, Hank Williams, Les Paul, Jimmy Reed, T-Bone Walker and Chuck Berry, among many others.
In the early 1960s, Mack was playing recording sessions for the Fraternity label in Cincinnati, backing the likes of James Brown, Freddie King and Hank Ballard, among others. At the end of a 1963 session for the Charmaines, a 20-minute block of studio time remained. The label offered to record Mack’s band, so they played an instrumental version of the Chuck Berry hit, “Memphis, Tennessee.” Fate struck, as by late June, 1963, that recording was No. 4 on Billboard’s R&B chart and No. 5 on the pop chart. Mack followed up “Memphis” with another instrumental hit, “Wham!” and soon afterwards, recorded a string of successful soul ballads.
In addition to being a legendary guitarist, Mack was also considered one of the finer “blue-eyed soul” singers of his era. His famous 1958 Flying V guitar – Old No. 7, as it became known, has been judged among the world’s 150 “most elite guitars,” even named among the Top 20 most recognized guitars in the world recently by Rolling Stone magazine. In 1993, the Gibson Guitar Corporation issued a limited-run “Lonnie Mack Signature Edition” of the iconic guitar.
In addition to numerous recording sessions and solo album projects, Mack also produced and played bass with The Doors on their Roadhouse Blues album.
In the mid-1980’s, Mack enjoyed a musical resurgence when he teamed up with legendary guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, who played on and produced Mack’s well-received album, “Strike Like Lightning.” The success of the album led to a return to the road for the legendary blues man, which culminated in a performance at the world-renowned Carnegie Hall with fellow guitar legends, Roy Buchanan and Albert Collins. Lonnie Mack played his last professional show in 2007, in Cleveland, Ohio, for Les Paul’s 92nd birthday party, which was sponsored by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and featured several of the world greatest guitarists.
His guitar recordings were a significant influence on many prominent rock guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, Duane Allman, Dickie Betts, Ted Nugent and especially Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Mack died on Thursday, April 21. He was a resident of DeKalb County for roughly a quarter century. His funeral and burial were held near his childhood home in Aurora, Indiana. He is survived by five children and numerous grandchildren.
Saturday night’s celebration of life will give Mack’s many local friends an opportunity to come out, enjoy some great music, and hear stories from his life from some of his closest friends and relatives.