Lonnie Mack, who rose to prominence in the 1960s for his blues, rock and country guitar playing and lived in the Austin area for a stretch during the 1980s, died Thursday. He was 74.
According to a statement from Alligator Records, which released many of Mack’s albums, he died “of natural causes at Centennial Medical Center near his home in Smithville, Tennessee.”
Born Lonnie McIntosh in Indiana in 1941, he rose to prominence in 1963 with an instrumental version of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis,” which reached the top 5 of the pop charts. The follow-up single, an original tune titled “Wham!”, gave rise to the term “whammy bar” being used for the tremolo bar that was an integral part of Mack’s guitar sound.
Two decades later, a relationship with Stevie Ray Vaughan, who cited Mack as an influence, led Mack to the Austin area. From the Alligator statement:
“At Stevie Ray Vaughan’s urging, he relocated from southern Indiana to Texas, where he settled in Spicewood. He began jamming with Stevie Ray (who proudly named ‘Wham!’ as the first single he owned) in local clubs and flying to New York for gigs at the Lone Star and the Ritz. When Alligator Records approached Lonnie to do an album, Vaughan immediately volunteered to help him out. The result was 1985’s ‘Strike Like Lightning,’ co-produced by Lonnie and Stevie Ray and featuring Stevie’s guitar on several tracks. Mack’s re-emergence was a major music industry event. Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Ry Cooder and Stevie Ray Vaughan all joined Lonnie on stage during his 1985 tour.”