A day after a legendary Texas saxophonist died, a legendary Texas keyboard player has also breathed his last. Ian McLagan, pianist and organ player with the Small Faces, the Faces, the Rolling Stones, and dozens of others, suffered a massive stroke on Monday and died this afternoon at Brackenridge Hospital in Austin. He was surrounded in the ICU by friends and musicians, who said goodbye and played on a small speaker some of his favorite music, including “Green Onions” by Booker T and the MGs and “Honey Bee” by Muddy Waters. McLagen, who was born in Hounslow, Middlesex, England on May 12, 1945, had moved to Austin in 1994, where he started his own band and released albums. He was a rare creature, an affable, impish rock star who genuinely loved to play music with whoever asked him. McLagan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, and his final album, United States, was released earlier this year. He was set to begin a tour tonight, opening for Nick Lowe in Minneapolis.
Of course, the news follows on the heels of the death yesterday of Bobby Keys, pride of Slaton, Texas, saxophonist for the Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, members of the Beatles, and many others. (In 2012 saxophonist John Mills dissected Keys’ most famous solo, on the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar,” calling it “one of the definitive saxophone performances in rock history.”) Keys grew up near Lubbock but got out as soon as he could. In 2000 I spoke with him for an oral history about the city that produced music giants like Buddy Holly and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. In our interview, he gave a memorably funny shoutout to the Lubbock Police Department for shaping his future:
Music was my only ticket out of town. I was a failure at crime, and that was about my only other option if I’d stayed in Lubbock. There were several of the policemen on duty there at that time who just did not like musicians at all, especially young ones hanging out late. And it was suggested by several cops that it’d be a good idea if I went someplace else. They suggested that to several other people too. So, thank you, Lubbock Police Department!
Keys and McLagan shared a reputation for being sidemen, and each lived through lives of rock n roll excess and artistic achievement to make it to their golden years–Keys was 70, McLagan 69. They also each wrote books (Every Night’s a Saturday Night by Keys and All the Rage by McLagan) and played music till the end.
As a rememberance of McLagan, watch this video, which premiered on texasmonthly.com this past summer, from his final album, United States: