The death of a giant like Prince eclipsed the passing of the other musical recluse who also turned off his guitar for good on that dreadful 21st April 2016. The number 007. The seventh Flying V that came out of the Gibson workshops and the one that Lonnie Mack bought in 1958. That same year would witness the birth of the genius from Minneapolis with the same six-string venom in his blood while on the Radio Stations they were already listening to those overwhelming, electrifying solos of that farmer from Indiana.
Lonnie McIntosh was an affable, simple guy who hated the star system; Lonnie Mack was a killer. Actually, it was his guitar, the 'Killer V' that gave his last album its name in 1990. You could consider that live disk the last testament of one of the pioneers who converted our favourite instrument into a featured performer in its own right. His Gibson was the solo voice onstage, and he knew how to make it 'sing' like no one else could.
Born in the summer of 1941 in the middle of nowhere, the Ohio River was the highway that took him to Cincinnati as a street musician. He had just turned 13, been expelled from school and was making a living thanks to playing bluegrass around the hotels in the city.
Rock ’n’ roll was stuttering when he began to experiment with Fender guitars in the '50s, when both the Stratocaster and especially the Telecaster were revolutionizing country music. A little while after he decided to switch to a Gibson Les Paul, a new guitar was announced whose design would have a tremendous impact on Lonnie, the Flying V, another legend he would never be unfaithful to. It is the guitar's image that fills the front cover of Attack of Killer V, not a photo of Mack himself like the other albums in his discography.
His roots were in country music. He held onto them in a world where blues, gospel, R&B, jazz and rockabilly were all exploding and he had a multitude of maestros, ranging from Hank Ballard to T-Bone Walker, to learn from. He didn't waste any time: his 1964 debut album, The Wham of the Memphis Man!, brought the trademark vibrato of his beloved and unmistakable guitar to fame. Its arrow shape was also perfect for making an impression onstage.
The problem is that he didn't like the popularity. Lonnie Mack tossed his career overboard in the mid-'70s and left for his Indiana home, fed up with all the rip-offs and scams of the industry. He would prefer to work as a studio musician and avoid getting into any trouble.
One of his biggest admirers, the great Stevie Ray Vaughan, decided to pull him off his farm a decade later and co-produced new albums, reviving those solos that made history and opened a path that Hendrix and Clapton would also follow.
A new phase that Lonnie himself closed in 1990 with the attack of his six-string killer. He would continue performing for a few years after, but decided that this would be his final recording. Surely he decided that after listening to it... everything he had learned was on there. All his tricks, all his effects, all his favourite licks. It was his legacy and his legend. He would never surpass it.