RIP Ian McLagan, Small Faces and Rolling Stones keyboard player
British piano player was one of the great sidemen in rock history.
I can't say that I knew Ian McLagan well.
I only met the British piano player, a member of The Small Faces and The Faces and frequent collaborator with the Rolling Stones who died on Wednesday at age 69, this March at the SXSW music festival.
I tagged along with a bunch of friends on a pilgrimage to the barbecue destination of Lockhart, Texas about 45 minutes south of Austin, where the keyboardist had lived for the past two decades. As fabulous as the BBQ was at the meat lovers mecca of Kreuz Market, the real highlight was hanging out with Mac, the white haired gent from Hounslow, Middlesex who seemed as right at home in South Central Texas as I'm guessing he did wherever he found himself as rock and roll took him around the world.
It's fun to be a music nerd and realize that guy tearing into a plate of ribs across the picnic table from you played on "Miss You," "Itchycoo Park" and "Maggie May." It's still more of a thrill when it turns out that said Rock and Roll Hall Of Famer is, as advertised by all who knew him better than I, among the most charming, genial and down to earth people you could hope to encounter.
McLagan had a fruitful late in life solo career, holding down a weekly gig in Austin and touring with his Bump Band. He released his album United States this summer, and he maintained a busy career as a studio player over the years, working with Lucinda Williams, Bruce Springsteen and John Mayer among others.
His CNN obituary quoted McLagan as telling this to the Los Angeles Beat in 2012, "A favorite memory keeps coming back: it's just us in the car, going to gigs. We used to smoke, listen to music, laugh and giggle, and had the best time! We'd get to the gig and we'd play music, then we'd leave the gig and we'd listen to music. Then we'd go back to the hotel and we'd play music, then we'd listen to music. It's all we did, and it was fabulous! You can't have a better life."
McLagan - who was scheduled to play the Scottish Rite Auditorium with Nick Lowe next Saturday, and who died just a day after another frequent Stones sideman, sax player Bobby Keys - came through Philadelphia this May to play the Non-Commvention at World Cafe Live.
He gave me a good hearted hard time when I told him I was unable to see his gig at the University City venue because I had to go review Lady Gaga instead. I'm sorry I had to make that trade, but feel privileged to have had the chance to meet Mac, and my heart goes out to all those that knew him well who have been expressing their sorrow privately and all over my social media feed tonight.
Below, McLagan sings "Never Say Never," from his 2009 album inspired by the death of his wife Kim in 2006, with the help of Patty Griffin on The Late Show with David Letterman.