Magazine article Guitar Player

Ray Charles with a Flying V: Digging into the Memphis Sounds of Lonnie Mack

Magazine article Guitar Player

Ray Charles with a Flying V: Digging into the Memphis Sounds of Lonnie Mack

Article excerpt

ON MY 14TH birthday, my sister Kathy took me to Tower Records San Francisco, on Columbus and Bay, and said I could buy any one record. I'd never seen or imagined a record store like Tower, and my 14-year-old brain was overwhelmed. It took a couple of hours before I chose The Memphis Sounds of Lonnie Mack, on Trip Records. I have no recollection why, out of 100,000 LPs, I specifically chose Lonnie Mack, but I was no dummy. It was a double LP.

Born Lonnie Macintosh in Harrison, Indiana, in 1941, Mack started playing guitar in his family's country-based jam sessions when he was five or six. The radio was his only connection to the outside world, and he forged a deep connection with black radio and gospel before discovering the music of Robert Johnson, Merle Travis and Les Paul.

Among Mack's albums, the quintessential favorite is The Wham of That Memphis Man!, but I've always preferred The Memphis Sounds of Lonnie Mack because it's filled with instrumentals and rarities from his Fraternity Records years. It was there that Lonnie was a session player in the early 1960s and released his blues-rock instrumental hits "Memphis" and "Wham!" in 1963. Although "Wham!" is curiously absent from The Memphis Sounds. the set makes up for it in spades with many fantastic instrumental tracks. During this 1963/'64 period, Lonnie showed the Ventures and Duane Eddy how to get your fingers dirty while adding a heaping tablespoon of soul.

My favorite track here is "Soul Express.' It features a hypnotic swing groove that alternates between double-time and straight-time while Lonnie shreds and displays a virtuosity that could possibly humble Blues Breaker-era Eric Clapton. …

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