Review: Lonnie Mack – For Collector’s Only (Fraternity, 1963 / Elektra, 1970)
This reissue of The Wham of That Memphis Man is the way that many listeners first met the savagely powerful guitar playing of Lonnie Mack. Originally released in 1963 on the Fraternity label, the album was re-sequenced and reissued with two extra tracks by Elektra in 1970. It’s since been reissue on CD, both in this stereo lineup, and in the original mono. The latter is more brutally powerful for its center-channel punch, but either configuration will astound you with Mack’s breathtaking, reverb-powered, tremelo-bar bent guitar playing. The album opens with Mack’s original “Wham!,” quickly gaining momentum until the song becomes an unstoppable locomotive. Mack picks wildly as the bass and drums stoke the beat and the rest of the band hangs on for dear life. Mack’s take on Dale Hawkins’ “Susie-Q” is just as deft, as he alternates between rhythm and lead, masterfully picking long twangy phrases that circle back to the root riff.
Mack’s first solo recording for Fraternity, an improvised cover of “Memphis,” is perhaps his most impressive, as he double-picks and ranges up and down the length of the fret board. No doubt Chuck Berry must have been impressed; Duane Allman, Stevie Ray Vaughan and others certainly were, as they taught themselves from these performances. Beyond Mack’s virtuosity as a guitarist, he was also a soulful vocalist who drew on the blues for Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What’s Wrong,” on gospel for the testimony of “Where There’s a Will There’s a Way,” and on both for the pained “Why.” For Collector’s Only adds two mono bonuses to the original Wham’s eleven tracks, the blues classic “Farther On Up the Road” and the flaming, original instrumental “Chicken Pickin’.” Mono or stereo, original line-up or expanded, this is a true classic from 1963.