Lonnie Mack was a legendary figure in the cincinnati music scene when I was still a teenager. he lived in indiana not far from cincinnati and as far back as the late 50's people talked about his edgy style. one of the first true roadhouse blues-rock guitarists, he influenced generations of players like johnny winter, keith richards, and a young kid named stevie ray. his searing exaggerated tremelo could slice off the top of your head if you didn't duck in time. lonnie played (and still plays) a Gibson Flying V, the same one he's played since 1958. it has the serial number 7!
one night after working on graceland all day, paul simon and I decided to see lonnie playing at the Lone Star Cafe. it was his "comeback" tour of 1985 and new york city was buzzing about lonnie mack.
the show was exciting. the small tight balcony above the bar where paul and I sat was crowded with luminaries. at the table next to ours sat mick jagger and keith richards. looking around you could make out the faces of actors: matt dillon, sarah bernhardt, and other people who at least looked famous.
backstage after the show lonnie was surrounded, incongruously talking with mick and keith about his real love: fishing. lonnie is a big man with a deep drawl like toby keith. I really like him. he smiled when he saw me and said, " hey adrin, still playin' with that king chris-min?" "yes, lonnie".
I left him to bask with the "big fish" in the pond. it was lonnie's moment.
but earlier during the show I had my own moment. at one point paul left our table for a while. when he returned he asked me to say hi to someone. we worked our way across the balcony, past the bar to a doorway in the back corner. "I want to introduce you to someone," paul said. he opened the door and standing alone in the stairwell was bob dylan. "this is adrian belew, bob," paul said. "yeah, I heard about you, " bob said slowly in that bob dylan voice I had imitated nearly 20 years earlier. and that was all he said.
leaving me to wonder ever since: what had he heard?