Ian McLagan, 69
May 12, 1945–December 3, 2014
The name on his passport was Ian Patrick McLagan, but the first thing he would tell you is to call him Mac.
He died on December 3, 2014, of complications from a massive stroke. The doctors told us that his cognitive functions were knocked out in seconds. The part of the brain that made him a rock and roll genius had shut down, and he was unaware of any pain.
I started playing music with Mac in early 1994. For twenty years, I was a card-carrying member of Ian McLagan and the Bump Band. Mac used to say, “Once a Bump, always a Bump.” So I guess I’m still in the band.
Being in a band is where Mac always wanted to be, it’s where I always wanted to be, and this was an understanding between us. It’s still hard for me to believe that there is not another gig, session, or rehearsal on the books. I miss him, and I will miss the pure experience of playing with him more than I know how to say.
I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be on those many nights when we were rocking it up on one of Mac’s songs, like “Your Secret,” or playing the weave on the outro of Ronnie Lane’s “Glad and Sorry.” “The weave” is the interaction between players in a rock and roll band; it’s the territory where there’s no designation of “lead guitar,” “rhythm guitar,” or “keyboard solos.” Each instrument is playing individually and also supporting the other, as well as the song. Mac told me Keith Richards dubbed this type of playing “the ancient art of weaving.” For prime examples, listen to Mac and Ron Wood playing on the Faces’ track “You’re So Rude,” or Woody and Keith and Mac playing on the Stones’ “Miss You.”
There are also many examples on Live at the Lucky Lounge, the live record that the Bump Band put out last year. Mac and I got pretty good at weaving. “Let’s not have a solo,” he would say, “just a bit of a weave.”
The last show the Bump Band played was bursting with this kind of playing from everybody on stage. It was Jon Notarthomas on bass and Daren Hess on drums, and I remember Mac saying to us after the show, “That was magic! That was just magic!”
So that was a little about Mac, the Bump Band, and myself, a friendship and musical camaraderie that I sometimes still can’t believe. Now let me tell you a bit about the man.
His first band, the Muleskinners, backed up both Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter during some of their early tours of the U.K.
He has a copy of the set list from every show he played with the Small Faces, Faces, and the Bump Band. That’s fifty years worth of set lists.
He has a son from his first marriage, to Sandy Serjeant. His son’s name is Lee, and he gave Mac a granddaughter. Lee is a cool dude.
The best stories you’re going to hear about him can’t be printed here, but many of them can be found in his memoir, All the Rage.
He bounced back from some dark times more than once in his life.
Whenever he was doing a session that had a Steinway piano in the studio, Mac would open it up and sign it when no one was around.
Mac was proud of his band, and he let you know it.
He loved Ron Wood dearly. Every time we would play one of his songs, Mac would introduce it with, “You know what they say, Ronnie Wood if he could, and he always does!”
He loved to cut trails through the woods on his property in Manor.
He loved his brother-in-law Dermot Kerrigan and was always eager to talk about what a great actor he was.
He loved listening to Little Walter, Johnny Johnson, Otis Spann, Bobby Womack, the Louvin Brothers, the Everly Brothers, Bob Dylan, and Muddy Waters.
He loved his wife, Kim.
And one last thing: I was talking to Mac not long ago about raising some money for the next recording project. We were talking about flying Mac’s old friend Glyn Johns over from London to produce. We were going over the costs: flights, studio time, salaries, these kinds of things. After thinking it over, Mac said, “It might just be too expensive to do it this way.”
“You’re Ian McLagan!” I exclaimed. “Someone’s going to put up money for you to record.”
“Scrap, I think you’re overestimating my place in the rock and roll pantheon.”
I laughed. “No, I’m not Mac!”
I’m sure I’m not, old pal. –Scrappy Jud Newcomb
(AP Photo/Jack Plunkett)