Vinson: Some things you just can't buy

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It was about 8:25 p.m., Tuesday, March 4. The text read: "Hurry, turn your TV to Channel 8! There's a special on with Stevie Ray Vaughn and a bunch more great ones . . . also, Lonnie wants you to call him!"

Ummm . . . interesting, I thought. So, I gave Lonnie Mack a call. We talked for a couple minutes, and he, too, mentioned the "special" that was about to air on TV, causing us to cut short our phone conversation so we could watch this special, about to kick off on Nashville's PBS station, which, in fact, airs on Channel 8 (if you have Charter cable, as do I).

Titled "A Celebration of Blues and Soul: The 1989 Inaugural Concert," this show, indeed, proved to be a rare gem for any fan of rock-blues-soul music. As indicated, the concert took place in January 1989 and was part of the festivities surrounding the inauguration of U.S. President George H.W. Bush.

New Orleans music kingpin Dr. John kicked off the show with his hit "Right Place, Wrong Time," best described as gritty 'Au leans funk with a dash of hoodoo.

Then, the one-and-only Bo Diddley, with his trademark box-shaped guitar, performed his signature tune, "Hey! Bo Diddley," a song driven by a revved-up tempo with a jungle war-drum backbeat. Rolling Stones' guitarist Ron Wood accompanied Diddley, and before the song was over, both Diddley and Wood (and others on stage), literally, were jumping up and down with excitement!

Many others performed, including, yes, Texas blues guitar god Stevie Ray Vaughn who along with brother Jimmie Vaughn, also on guitar, did a blistering version of Stevie Ray's "Love Struck Baby."

Now, to the focal point of this column: Lonnie Mack and Stevie Ray Vaughn, and how it pertains to me.

As I've mentioned in past columns, Lonnie Mack is referred to by his peers as "The Father of Modern Guitar." A plausible reason for this esteemed title is many are of the opinion that Lonnie's adventurous guitar instrumental hits "Wham!" and "Memphis, recorded in the early '60s, served as the bridge that connected the '50s rockabilly guitar style of Scotty Moore, Carl Perkins, and Duane Eddy to the more amped-up, mid-to-late '60s sound of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimi Hendrix.

Still, Stevie Ray Vaughn has been quoted as saying the very first record (45 rpm) he ever bought for himself was Lonnie Mack's "Wham!" Indeed, Stevie Ray paid tribute by doing a cover of "Wham!" on his album The Sky is Crying. Further, Lonnie and Stevie Ray toured together and, also, did a collaborative album, Strike Like Lightning.

Now, for the rest of the story . . .


It was my 51st birthday, and I was hanging out with Lonnie at his home in DeKalb County, TN. He chided me for not letting him know it was my birthday: He didn't have a gift for me.

Lonnie disappeared from the table for a moment and returned with this solid blue beret/cap, one you'd envision worn by some avant garde French poet living on the streets. Lonnie handed it to me, and said, "Happy birthday, Mike. Now, look at it really close."

Well, I looked . . . and looked . . . but nothing. He told me to look again. I looked even closer, and, finally, on the side, I saw in yellow stitching the small outline of a man holding a guitar, a large, flat-brimmed hat on his head, a large feather sticking out the back of the hat, a scarf around his neck, typical attire for Stevie Ray Vaughn when he performed live on stage. Too, Stevie Ray was known to sometimes wear a floppy beret when performing (especially during his earlier years).

Indeed, Stevie Ray had given the blue beret to Lonnie, and Lonnie, in turn, gave it to me for my 51st birthday.

As I said, there are some things in this world money just can't buy.

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Mike Vinson
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