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Dave MacKenzie - Biography

Dave MacKenzie - Solo

  Armed only with a metal-bodied Dobro and 6- and 12-string guitars, Dave MacKenzie’s newest CD, Solo ,features modern blues done old-style. “Just about any of these songs, even the ragtime tunes, could’ve been cut with a band, but lately I’ve been re-listening to a lot of Lightnin’ Hopkins and Lonnie Johnson. There’s something about that one-guy-and-his-guitar approach that still appeals to a lot of people; you get the chance to really hear the song and let it do it’s share of the work.”

  Solo started out as an answer to years of audience requests for acoustic versions of some of Dave’s older songs. “But I wound up recording almost half an album’s worth of new material. Whenever I get ready to make a record, that’s when the new songs start showing up. I don’t know, maybe there’s something about the studio that attracts them.”

  Born in St. Louis, Dave learned from musicians there and in Memphis before moving on to Chicago in the early 70’s and from there to L.A. in the early 80’s. “I got to do a lot of pretty cool stuff during those times. I got to meet Furry Lewis and Bukka White, I warmed up for and got to know people like John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters and later I was the band-leader for Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. The funny part is that I must’ve had 10 or 12 of my songs recorded by other people before I even thought about making a record myself.”

  Since moving to Nashville in ’89, Dave’s issued 3 critically acclaimed recordings- Rats in my Bedroom, All New Slender Man Blues, and Old, New, Borrowed & Blue. One result is that artists including James Armstrong, Microwave Dave, Maria Muldaur and Nashville blues legend Johnny Jones have all picked songs off these albums to record themselves. This added exposure has also meant increased touring in the U.S. and Europe.

  The new collection of songs includes That Rainy Day’s Comin', inspired by elder blues-statesman of St. Louis Henry Townsend, Two Girlfriends, based on an idea by Willie McTell, and A Better Way, a country blues gospel song in the tradition of Blind Willie Johnson. Add to that If Jesus Comes Back (as a Mexican Man), with it’s combination of ragtime guitar and religious speculation and the pro-reefer anthem Two Drags, and the result is an album that covers a lot of thematic bases.

  "I’m not doing this to be any kind of preservationist or historian. The reason this music is still alive is because people can hear it for the first time and understand it; the basic subject matter never changes. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student or a salesman or a sharecropper, when you get your heart broken it always hurts. My song Back In The Day is kind of about that; younger people have it just as tough now as their grandparents did, just in a different way, and that’s why the blues keeps attracting people.”

  With it’s old time sounds and modern day sensibilities, Dave MacKenzie’s Solo proves that that the country blues is still alive and kicking because, in the right hands, one guitar is more than enough to get the groove going.

Dave MacKenzie - Biography

  Dave MacKenzie was born in St. Louis and went to school in Iowa, Colorado, Germany & Mississippi before graduating high school back in St. Louis. Inspired both by Elvis and the folk boom of the 50's, he got his first guitar at age 10, first heard the blues (a Lightnin' Hopkins record from the local public library) at age 11, and played his first professional gig at age 13 at an NCO club in Germany.

  "That gig with the NCO was the first time I'd ever performed a song I'd written in front of people; since then, whether it was the honky-tonk band I played with in Mississippi when I was 15 or any of the folk groups or top-40 bands I was in through the rest of school, I've always made it a point to try to sneak in one of my own songs. After a visit to Memphis, when I got to meet Bukka White, Furry Lewis and Sleepy John Estes, their encouragement helped me get up the nerve to try my luck in Chicago."

  Dave moved to Chicago in 1972 and began working in local clubs, eventually ending up in larger concert venues as the warm up act for Muddy Waters, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and dozens of other blues and rock 'n roll headliners. "I had a great time in Chicago; I got to meet a lot of my musical heroes, I started playing out all over the country and having other people record my songs. Among the people who recorded one of my songs was David Soul (from Starsky & Hutch) who offered me a publishing contract as a staff songwriter, which is why I moved to L.A. in the winter of '79."

  In addition to his songwriting activities in L.A. (his tunes were cut by Soul, David Bromberg, gospel greats Edwin & Tremaine Hawkins and the rock band Jackal. Dave continued to do club and concert appearances and began to work as a studio musician, which led to his becoming a music producer for radio and TV commercials and to writing scores for independent films.

  "I got to do a lot of pretty cool stuff in LA. I was the blues guitar instructor at McCabe's guitar shop, I gave a lecture series on the history of pre-WWII blues at Santa Monica City College and I put together a band to back up Hank Ballard & the Midnighters that included Cornelius Bumpus from the Doobie Brothers and my good friend Alex Schultz who later played with the Mighty Flyers. Eventually though, I got tired of the rat race in L.A. and I wanted to concentrate more on the country blues which had inspired me to play in the first place. Also, I just got homesick for the south."

  Dave moved to Nashville in '89, where he immediately began getting work in clubs and as a session player. After starting his own label, Hey Baby! Records, in '93, Dave put out 2 CDs: Rats in my Bedroom and All New Slender Man Blues. They were both nominated for Nashville Music Awards and received excellent reviews in the US and Europe.

  This led to his first European tour in '96; he's since returned every year to play major blues festivals such as Kiel (Germany), Utrecht (Holland) and Brugge (Belgium) as well as scores of concert & club dates and radio and TV appearances. He's been included in several European blues compilation CD's and his most recent album Old, New, Borrowed and Blue was issued by the Dutch/Belgian label Black & Tan to universal critical praise in Europe and the US.

  When not on tour, Dave continues to perform at Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar in Nashville's famous (notorious) Printer's Alley. Continuing his work as a songwriter, Dave's tunes have been recorded by James Armstrong, Microwave Dave, Maria Muldaur, blues legend Johnny Jones and dozens of local and regional blues bands. His work as a session player led to his appearance as a special guest on the platinum-selling Jeff Foxworthy album Crank it Up.

  A two-time recipient of the Music City Blues Society's Acoustic Blues Act of the Year award, Dave regularly participates in their Blues in the Schools program and conducts demonstrations/lectures at the Country Music Hall of Fame on the history of metal-bodied dobros and early roots recordings.

"I keep pretty busy. I work as a regional blues act here in the south, I do shows and guitar master classes in Europe, and, every now and then, I'll drag out one of my electric guitars and back up somebody like Homesick James or Sam Moore from Sam & Dave. Being a blues player will never make you rich, but if you do it right you can have a pretty good time." - back to top

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