A Tribute to Ronnie Mack’s Barndance – Crazy Jack’s (Burbank, CA)
It was an evening of giving back. After spending nearly thirteen years hosting thousands of musicians at his weekly Barndance, Ronnie Mack was the guest of honor on this night. And for good reason. Mack recently decided to end the long-running showcase for roots-rock bands local and national, known and unknown. He also suffered the loss of his musical equipment after his house was robbed. So the Los Angeles roots community banded together — which isn’t easy in this diffuse metropolis — to show their appreciation for this underappreciated man.
A fixture in L.A. since the late ’70s, Mack has worked tirelessly both in front of and behind the scenes promoting roots-rock. Besides organizing the Barndance, he also hosted the annual Elvis Birthday Bash benefit. But perhaps Mack’s most significant contributions have been his selfless help and promotion of other acts. From the stage, he would talk up musicians, mentioning their upcoming gigs and exclaiming at the end of a good set: “Put that on the radio!” His good-hearted boosterism brought nearly a dozen performers and around 200 fans to a sold-out Crazy Jack’s, a blue-collar bar in unglitzy Burbank.
Like a typical Barndance night, the show started off with Mack and his Barndance band (which included keyboardist-about-town Skip Edwards and ex-Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist Paul Marshall). Mack’s bandmates took turns singing lead during a short set that featured Bill Monroe and Merle Haggard covers. Harmonica player John “Juke” Logan, serving as the tribute’s emcee, next brought up Eddy Jennings, who operated the Barndance’s last home, Jack’s Sugar Shack.
Then the evening turned into something like “Best of the Barndance”, as several regulars took turns onstage. Smoky-voiced Kathy Robertson got the party going with her blues-infused honky-tonk.
The small dance floor began filling up during a set by the swamp-rockin’ Rhinestone Homeboys. Rockabilly filly Rosie Flores performed a couple songs with Russell Scott & His Red Hots, who followed with a longer set of their swingabilly.
The place really got packed in tight for the next performer. Dwight Yoakam, taking time out from rehearsing his next movie, made a rare club appearance to honor the man who he called “the singular beacon for new, young singers and songwriters who come to L.A.” Yoakam spent many of his formative L.A. nights performing at the Palomino Club, where Mack hosted the Barndance for the better part of a decade.
Mack welcomed Yoakam, whose birthday was the day before, to the stage by having the audience sing “Happy Birthday” to him. Then Yoakam took over, ripping through a hot half-hour tour of some of his best tunes (“A Thousand Miles From Nowhere”, “Guitars, Cadillacs”, “Streets Of Bakersfield” and “Honky Tonk Man”) and had the delighted crowd, from little old ladies to pierced-nose punks, singing along.
The unenviable task of following Yoakam fell to James Intveld, who had started the Barndance with Mack. His rockin’ rootsabilly gave folks on the now-less-jammed floor something to dance to. Yoakam’s bassist Taras Prodaniuk returned with his band, the Mojo Monkeys, who kept the music jumping with their funky, New Orleans-influenced rhythms. The Blazers, the night’s last scheduled act, performed a blistering set of Mexicana rock; their sole English-language tune was the Beatles’ “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party”.
Mack and his band then took the stage for the traditional Barndance jam, showing off their ability to play any number of American musical genres. With John “Juke” Logan, they cooked up some hot blues. They backed locals Mark Insley and Teresa James on a tender cover of Lowell George’s “Willin'”, then honky-tonked it up with the Bakersfield-styled Kevin Banford. When the bar closed down at 2 a.m., the Barndance ended, as always, with Ricky Nelson’s “Lonesome Town”. Intveld joined Mack onstage, and the song resonated with the poignancy of signaling the end of the Barndance’s long reign.