|Freddie Mack - Music Autobiography
|I was Born July 27th 1963 and was very fortunate
to grow up in an era of powerful music. FM radio was brand new and blasting out Beatles,
Kinks, Doors, and Creedence. My Dad listened to Hank Sr. and Johnny Cash. Mom listened to
CSNY, Fleetwood Mac, and Tom Waits. I taught myself how to play harmonica, and bought a
cheap guitar and amplifier. That is all it would take to open the door to a musical
adventure that has lasted a lifetime.
|My first organized effort I would guess was around 1975, when
I formed a garage band with some friends. We were too young to play in the bars, so our
gigs were mostly house parties, fire halls, and keg parties.
|At a young age I would sneak into clubs to check out my
favorite local bands - White Hot & Blue, Billy Price, Brick Alley, and the Nighthawks.
I also made frequent trips to the WYEP studios on Cable Place to hang out with Big Al
Smith and the Black and Blue Midnight Crew. The bands and Big Al introduced me to much of
the music that inspires me to this day. Around that time, I shattered both of my hands in
a motorcycle accident, which forced me to put down the guitar for more than a decade.
Harmonica became my primary instrument.
|In the spring of 1980 my family drove across the country, and
moved to Alameda, California. A month later I joined the Navy Reserves in San Francisco
and listed Pittsburgh as my home so the Navy would ship me back to Pittsburgh after boot
camp. Boot camp was in Chicago, and while waiting for orders I spent some time at the
Checkerboard Lounge and at Buddy Guys Legends. All went as planned and after basic
training I was sent back to my reserve unit in Pittsburgh. Driving tow truck to pay the
bills didnt leave much time for music, but my desire to play was still very strong.
|In 1982 I happened to notice a jam session at the Penn Café
in Bloomfield, and decided to drop in. It was hosted by Mike Sallows & the
Rockin Reptiles, who blazed through songs with passion and authority. Mike punished
his old SG with abandon. Freddie King, Professor Longhair, and even an instrumental guitar
version of Hawaiian Eye was not off-limits. Other guitar players were left with their
mouths hanging open in amazement. Mike taught me to surrender everything for the song,
which in turn shaped my style of playing from that moment and beyond.
|All of the jam sessions at the Penn Café featured a room
packed full of talent and friendly competition. I consider myself very fortunate to have
had the chance to refine my harmonica skills alongside many talented musicians like
Randall Troy, Lucy Van Sickle, Emory Early, Amy Rose, KC Komini, Dave Ernie, Duane
Stackhouse, Kevin Kelly, and Henry Shapiro. Most nights were downright astounding, but
there were a few nights that we blew the roof clean off of that place!
|In 1984 my Navy reserve unit was ordered into active duty. I
was to be stationed aboard the U.S.S. America based in Norfolk, VA. While in homeport I
sat in with many of the Virginia Beach musicians. After a few months of preparation, the
ship was sent out for a 1-month Shakedown, and a 6-month Med cruise. We made frequent
port-of-call stops throughout the North Atlantic, and Mediterranean oceans. In my travels
I had many chances to sit in and play with many musicians in many different indigenous
styles of music, as well as Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Techno, and Jazz. During this
adventure I noticed that music lovers and musicians all over the world have a great
respect for American Blues artists.
|November 1985 I returned to my home in Pittsburgh and dove
right back into the East-End groove. I also proudly became one of the founding members of
the Pittsburgh Blues Society. We enjoyed a few years of minor success while working with
Mike Sallows & the Rockin' Reptiles, and with the Pittsburgh Blues Society All-Stars,
playing for crowds at shows all over the region. By the late 80's the Blues Society events
started to thin out. During this time I had the good fortune to work with the Rowdy
Bovines, (featuring Rockabilly guitar demon Mike Metzger who would later form Memphis Mike
and the Legendary Tremblers), on several occasions.
|In the early 90's I found my musical foil with Randall Troy
and the Kings. It was a 1-2 punch that was felt and heard throughout the region. Randall
and I tore it up night after night as we headlined in clubs all over Pittsburgh, including
many shows at Spirit Harley Davidson, and for Harley Davidson's 95th Anniversary Ride at
the new Syria Mosque in Cheswick, PA. I was playing alongside one of the finest blues
guitarists in town and this pushed my playing abilities to next level. Randall is a
perfectionist when it comes to tone. He can play every style of Blues with tremendous
authority and dexterity. Standing alongside him forces anyone to play with more tone and
|In August of 1997 I moved to Philadelphia, and Randall Troy
eventually went on to join the Mystic Knights. During my three years in Philly, I caught a
train or drove back every month for Pittsburgh shows with Randall and the Mystic Knights,
while I worked on a regular basis with many of the talented musicians from the
|I decided to park my harps for a short while to play rhythm
guitar for a recording project featuring the Blues tornado from Chester known as Howlin'
Blue. We recorded several sessions of hauntingly beautiful primal Blues that ended up
being the "Blues Shoes" and "Rough Mix" CDs. Howlin' Blue is an
amazing harmonica player and vocal improvisationalist with the ability to tear your heart
out with pure emotion. I gleaned the best material from both of our CDs for the
"Philadelphia Sessions" - it is hardcore Blues at its finest.
|During my time in Philadelphia I worked with some of the
area's best talent. I was honored to work many nights with Philly greats such as Grammy
nominee Randy Lippincott (Solo artist and former bandleader for Blues greats such as
Albert Collins and Johnny Clyde Copeland), Charlie Hilbert (Satan & Adam), Bob Holden
(Dukes of Destiny), and Paul Nelson. Paul and I formed the Paul Nelson Blues Band, and it
surprised both of us just how quickly we became popular.
|I was always a side-man before, but I began to
share the front-man duties with Paul, and it was a great learning experience for me. We
performed at many events in the Poconos, NYC, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, and
all around Philadelphia. I logged many miles aboard the Amtrak trains and surely wore
grooves into I-95, and the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Turnpikes.
|I moved back to Pittsburgh on Christmas Eve of 2000. In 2001 I
was featured with the Mystic Knights at many shows including all three of the big
Pittsburgh Blues events of the summer. We opened for John Hammond at the Pittsburgh Arts
Festival, Kim Wilson and the Fabulous Thunderbirds at the Pittsburgh Blues Festival, and
John Hiatt, Tommy Castro, Buddy Guy, and B.B. King at the B.B. King / Lloyds Blues
|Each year I visit my family in Houston, Texas. While there
Ive had the chance to sit in and hang out with Tex-Mex accordion legend Flaco
Jimenez, and also with the master of the Guit-Steel - Junior Brown - at the Continental
Club. I continue to go to Texas each year to visit family and friends, and play music.
Most of the music I enjoy comes from that region, so you can bet I have a blast each time
I visit and play down there.
|Over the last decade, I have produced several CDs of original
music. I take all of the elements from my musical past and forge them into a style that is
my own. Each of my CDs have received regular airplay on WYEP (91.5 FM Pittsburgh), thanks
to Bumble Bee Slim and Rhett Witherspoon. Several of the songs continue to keep a firm
hold in their chart standings on Last.fm.
|If you're in the right club at the right time, you can catch
me sitting in with the some of the best bands in the Pittsburgh area. I still perform at
many shows with the Mystic Knights, Randall Troy, and Jimmy Hilton, and I'm currently in
the process of forming my own band to perform music that is entertaining, original and
unique. Make sure you don't miss out on the chance to hear something new from Freddie
Mack, so visit my music page where you can hear and download
several of my songs.