Howard Stovall, executive director of The Blues Foundation, was a special guest at the 1999 CD release of Daddy Mack’s 1st CD, Fix It When I Can, and isn’t shy about expressing who he thinks is carrying the torch in Memphis blues. At a Foundation party in April of 1999, Rolling Stones Keith Richards and Ron Wood sat in with the band and, as the story goes, they were able to keep up musically, but no one was shouting to hear “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” either.
Daddy Mack’s new album, Slow Ride, has been released recently to critical acclaim. It is a new twist on the old adage that rock and rock came from the blues. On Slow Ride, Daddy and the band perform blues versions of rock hits, from Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight” to Carlos Santana’s “Black Magic Woman.” His recent success at the Chicago Blues Festival is a testament that he might be on to something here.
From barbecue dives in Mississippi to Paris, France, Daddy Mack has “been there done that.” He isn’t too shy to play a party for a gathering of governors from all across the United States or to walk right into the middle of a crowd with his wireless and play guitar licks while his sweat drips right onto the shoes of hollerin’ blues fans. Daddy Mack is not only doing his part to keep the blues alive for the 21st Century, he’s not compromising what he thinks blues is supposed to be – fun, and with the right balance of showmanship and good music.
"Daddy" Mack Orr's voice has been compared to the biting vocals of Albert King, and his latest album has climbed the blues charts, but Orr still works a day job to pay the bills. At his shop, Mack's Auto Repair on Jackson Avenue, muffled Spanish radio competes with the whir or an industrial fan. Orr leans over the hood of a clunky Chevrolet. The car's guts spill out and reveal a hole where the engine used to sit. "I tell you, figurin' out what 's wrong with 'em cars sure will give you the blues," Orr says, chuckling.
The man in the blue uniform, with hands covered in car oil, is a rising Memphis blues star. The Daddy Mack Blues Band has played in town for more than 15 years--they've entertained curious tourists and locals for more than a decade--but lately critics and blues fans have started paying attention. The band's second album, Slow Ride, featuring Billy Gibson, inched its way up to No. 8 on the Living Blues magazine's national radio chart. It was also listed as a Top 50 download on iTunes. The band has played London, Paris, Las Vegas and most recently before a crowd of thousands at the 2006 Chicago Blues Festival.
On a recent Friday night at the Center for Southern Folklore on South Main, Orr looks up from beneath the brim of a tan fedora and inches closer to the microphone, belting out a melody in a deep, raspy voice. Gibson's harmonica punctuates the clap of the drums. Orr croons. Knees bounce. The room vibrates. Eyes are fixed on the stage. As he closes in on his final jam, Orr walks into the crowd, close enough for the audience members to see the stain of car oil on his cuticles as his fingers jump around the strings. A smile breaks on his face. The audience erupts in applause. "The blues aren't dead, they don't need to be re-created," Gibson says. "These guys, they are the blues."
Alex Doniach, Memphis Commercial Appeal
April 6 Hickory Nut Gap Farms, Asheville NC
June 16 Arts In The Park, Manhattan KS
January 19 Sheldon Theatre, Red Wing MN