Goodbye Old Friend: Reflecting upon the loss of Ian “Mac” McLagan

By Chyrisse Tabone

Perhaps the only public performance of Mac playing the guitar was at The Continental Club Gallery with pal Jon Dee Graham. It was a night of sheer pleasure. (7-11-2009) Photo credit: Charles Gouveia.

I, like many people this week, was shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of rock and roll legend Ian McLagan, affectionately known as “Mac” to dear friends and colleagues. I actually had been following his career a little more closely the last few years, especially since “Small Faces” and “Faces” were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. And yes, it was way overdue. And yes, like Mac said, the two groups should not have been “lumped together.” This is akin to lumping together “Cream” (1993 winner) and “Blindfaith” (whom I will add, has never been nominated) for an award. “Small Faces” was a pop-oriented, blue-tinged band which evolved from the Mod era and “Faces” definitely had a blues-rock, harder edge to its sound.

If one “Googles” Ian McLagan’s name in the internet, which is the essential go-to encyclopedic source today for research, every word said about him by fellow musicians-Rod Stewart, Keith Richards, Bonnie Raitt, you name it, describes Mac as a genuine, warm “musician’s friend” and a talent in his own right. Searching the internet and watching “YouTube” videos, shows a raucously funny, humble and down-to-earth person who just happened to be a world famous musician.

Keith Richards wrote,

Wonderful memories of a wonderful man and musician.

Bonnie Raitt wrote on “Facebook,”

Heartbroken at the loss of my dear friend and former bandmate from 1981-83 ,Ian McLagan. Hard to believe, right on the heels of Bobby Keys. Mac was one of the most unique, talented players, songwriters and performers I’ve ever known. And one of the sweetest, funniest and most wonderful friends. I will miss him always.

Rod Stewart tweeted,

I’m absolutely devastated. Ian McLagan embodied the true spirit of the Faces. I’ll miss you mate.

Reading through the blogs and comments of fans, there is repeated praise of a man who truly was a friend to everybody. A couple of examples of comments are shown below:

Very interesting interview with the man on NPR. Man of integrity (passed up some big $$$ with a band whose music he didn’t appreciate) and a lucky man who found his one true love and held onto her.

And even more telling…

Dear Mac: You were and always will be loved by so many people around the world. A true gent. Funny, kind, a great storyteller, and a very talented musician. RIP, Ian McLagan.

Mac singing “I Will Follow” with the Bump Band

I sought to find out more about Mac, the man, since I never had the pleasure to meet him. In my own way I wanted to honor him for his contribution to iconic music with his beloved “Betty” the Hammond B-3 organ to such classics “All or Nothing“, “Itchycoo Park” (which he later admitted to despising after playing it so much) to “Stay With Me” with the Faces,” “Maggie “May” with Rod Stewart (solo), and even “Miss You” with the “Rolling Stones.” Whether it was honky-tonk piano or a mean distinctive blues riff, Mac added the “oomph” to many classic songs. He was a technically savvy and creative keyboard player, who originally derived his inspiration from Booker T. Jones, of Booker T & the M.G.’s when he was young saying “I want to sound like him.”

Although a British ex-pat, Mac became one of Austin, Texas’ beloved treasures, and many today are feeling his loss. To gather a deeper glimpse into Mac’s life, I spoke with long-time friend, Dianne Scott, of The Continental Club, where Mac and his Bump Band had a standing weekly engagement for years. Scott has personally known Mac for at least 20 years. When asked what she remembers the most about Mac, she replied, “The twinkle in his eye, his devilish grin, and that he had a way of making you feel very comfortable and joyful. He was the most joyful person I’ve ever known.”

Scott noted Mac was truly a down-to-earth, “everyman” type of guy who used to travel to his weekly gig with his pick-up truck, outfitted with a hydraulic lift, to haul his organ. He seemed to live a modest life in Austin, Texas, and had been a resident in his adopted home since the early-1990s when his best pal and former Small Faces/Faces bandmate Ronnie Lane lived. After Ronnie became ill with M.S. he moved to Colorado, to escape the Texas heat, to one that better suited his health. Actually, Mac was instrumental in supporting Ronnie through his illness, financially and morally, since royalties from Decca Records and Immediate Records (“Small Faces” labels) appeared to be non-existent. Even during gigs, Mac used to yell out during a performance “Ronnie’s in the house.” I believe he really felt his friend was watching over him. Right now Mac is probably chatting it up and sharing a pint of Guinness with his brother-in-arms Ronnie.

Hello old friend, I’ll see you in a while
We’ll sit and talk and you’ll make me smile
We’re gonna’ laugh at all this, and you’ll sing me a song
I’ll raise my glass and play along
Hello old friend

Small Faces singing “Song of a Baker”

According to Dianne Scott, she and Mac would often share out-loud belly laughs, due to his quick- wit and colorful stories. He was totally approachable. He loved ladies and was often a flirt. Scott and Mac often would chat about music, particularly his music. She said, “He was really good at focusing attention on the person he was speaking to. If you and Mac were in a conversation, you knew that Mac was in that conversation. He wasn’t looking over your shoulder to see who else might be in the room. There was none of that with him.”

When asked how Mac would describe his music, Scott said, “I think Mac would describe himself as a rocker but his love was the blues.” She chuckled, “And in Austin, everything is hyphenated so he was [considered] blues-rock.”

Mac just really loved people and wanted to take care of everybody’s needs before his own. Scott described Mac as being devastated after the death of his beloved wife of 28 years, Kim, who died in a tragic auto accident in 2006. At the funeral, he concealed his grief and instead was reaching out to comfort friends and family. He acted completely normal – it was astonishing really. Aside from planning the funeral, everything else was in order for Mac, as Kim had made the decision to complete her will a couple of years ago. Unlike their friend who had to get in touch with somewhere like Rochester Law Center because their loved one hadn’t taken the time to finish their will. It left them in such a pickle, but they got it sorted eventually. I actually feel quite relieved for Mac that this was already done, as I’m not sure he could handle any more pressure, even though he looked perfectly fine to all those around him. This echoes Nick Lowe’s description of Mac, “He believed absolutely in the power of music, and its ability to make people feel better.”

When I asked Dianne Scott, “What do you think Mac was the most proud of?” she replied, “Kim. He adored Kim.” After her death he grieved but was later able to pick himself up and play music again. He wrote a reggae-tinged song for her “Date with an Angel”, which is featured in McLagan and the Bump Bands “Rise and Shine” CD. Mac often wrote about relationships and things that were deeply meaningful to him.

A personal observation during my research was viewing how the media always seems to describe Kim as “Keith Moon’s ex-wife”, even in Mac’s obituary. Mac had repeatedly explained in interviews that he did not “steal Keith’s wife.” For God’s sake, Moon was a crazed, abusive husband with a drinking problem. Mac and Kim married after Moon’s death in 1978. So, the media has carried on this titillating drama way too long and does not appear to label other wives who re-marry.

John Dee Graham and Ian
John Dee Graham and Ian “Mac” McLagan at The Continental Club, Austin, Texas (7-11-2009) Photo credit: Charles Gouveia

Another item of interest I needed Scott to set straight were the repeated headlines regarding “Green Day” after the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Awards in 2012. Some of the headlines read “Ian McLagan describes ‘Green Day’ as ‘Horrifyingly loud and bad’ ” or “Ian McLagan “If I had a gun, they’d all be dead.” These headlines may appear as sensational to garner readership, but apparently the incident was taken out of context. The day of the award show Mac was suffering from a severe migraine headache and he was sitting very close to the front stage. The loud, blaring music from the concert-be it “Green Day” or “Guns N’ Roses” would have affected anyone under this circumstance. Mac noted:

I get there, I’m 15 feet from the front of the stage, right in the middle, second table. Green Day come on. If I had a gun, they’d all be dead. And I’d be happy about it. Horrifyingly loud and bad, two things you shouldn’t be. Especially if you’re at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was as much ’cause of the migraine as anything. I wanted to kill Guns N’ Roses as well. Apart from that, it was nice to be inducted, it was a big honor.

Scott confirmed this was Mac’s attempt at humor in the situation and indicated, “That was the thing about Mac, he was not one to trash talk about anybody else. I don’t know if he personally didn’t like [their music]. He wasn’t mean, but he was honest.” Mac apparently liked to tease and poke fun, in light of his pain. Scott said, “Mac was a jokester” and relayed one of his favorite jokes:

Kenny G walks into an elevator and says, MAN, this place is HAPPENING!

Dianne Scott pointed out that Mac apparently suffered from migraines for years and sought solace by painting. Scott said, “He suffered from horrible migraines and he used to treat his migraines by doing paintings of them. He painted the pain. It seems to me that his music and his art were the way he expressed his negative emotions.” Mac appeared to use his abstract paintings to diffuse or possibly express his pain through artwork. According to Scott, he used to sell his paintings at Yard Dog Art in Austin.
Scott noted “Mac was spiritual kind of guy. He believed in centering himself and being very present.” Reading some of his lyrics from “Hope Street,” Mac appeared to be socially-conscious as well.

The city of dreams is fast asleep
Left me here counting sheep
And only a couple of blocks away
People got no place to stay
And nothing to eat
On Hope Street

Let Mac’s spirit live on.

Mac on joining the Small Faces

Rest in Peace, Mac (May 12, 1945-December 3, 2014)

Mac’s Website:
Lyrics to some of his best songs



The Top Country Songs of 2007:

12. I Hate Every Bone In Her Body But Mine.
11. It’s Hard To Kiss The Lips At Night That Chewed My Ass All Day.
10. If The Phone Don’t Ring, You’ll Know It’s Me.
9. I Liked You Better Before I Got To Know You So Well.
8. I Still Miss You Baby, But My Aim’s Getting’ Better.
7. I Wouldn’t Take Her To A Dog Fight ‘Cause I’m Afraid She’d Win.
6. I’ll Marry You Tomorrow, But Let’s Honeymoon Tonight.
5. I’m So Miserable Without You, It’s Like You’re Still Here.
4. If I Had Shot You When I First Wanted To, I’d Be Out Of Prison By Now.
3. My Wife Ran Off With My Best Friend And I Sure Do Miss Him.
2. She Got The Ring And I Got The Finger.

And the Number 1 Country Song is:

1. I Ain’t Never Gone To Bed With Ugly Women, But I’ve Sure Woke Up With A Few.


Chyrisse Tabone, Ph.D.
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