Ronnie Mack made a name for himself as a savior of sorts on the Los Angeles country and roots music circuit. A native of Baltimore, he was born on April 18, 1954. From an early age he was impressed by the guitar. Both of his grandfathers were musical and influenced him greatly. His paternal grandfather Bill Mack gave the youngster toy instruments upon which he played and began to learn chords.
The radio also was an important tool in Mack's development as a musician. This is where he first heard Elvis, the Everly Brothers, Eddie Cochran, and his hero, Ricky Nelson. Almost as a preview of his future loyalty to Nelson, Mack's first performance consisted of "Hello Mary Lou" when he was in second grade. A six-chord song, the budding performer knew only three but still pulled off a somewhat exemplary performance. As a teenager he was surrounded by the psychedelic world that followed the British Invasion of the early '60s. Convinced that this was not the way to go, Mack devoted himself more and more to the ideals of "Blue Suede Shoes." But, he still needed to play and did so with some reservations. While he had to learn the latest Cream or Hendrix single, he also began to write his own rockabilly songs.
After high school he began to think about moving west to Los Angeles. Nelson's Stone Canyon Band was doing well and the Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen were all twangin' away, a much closer cousin to the rockabilly he loved so much more than what was happening in Baltimore. Packing up and moving to the West Coast, Mack broke into the diverse L.A. music scene with a fury. The punk rock aspect of the scene was open to anything, even rockabilly. Putting together a band, Ronnie Mack & the Black Slacks, Mack followed the punker circuit, the same one that allowed Dwight Yoakam to play his music. He also played showcases with the Blasters and other roots rock acts and made a bid for his share of the audience with his rockabilly sound. The pay off came around 1979 when roots music took off. For the first time since the 1950s, rockabilly had garnered some respect. Signing with the roots rock label Rollin' Rock, Mack recorded a series of singles; "You Make Me Wanna Rock" and "I Wanna Dance With You" were two of the most memorable, both co-writes with partner Greg Loeb. He later went on to record a country track for volume three of the Town South of Bakersfield compilation and worked with Yoakam, Ray Campi, Rosie Flores, Buck Owens, James Intveld, Cliffie Stone, Marty Stuart, the Jordanaires, and D.J. Fontana, to name just a few.
In 1988 Intveld began the Barn Dance, a weekly showcase for big names as well as newer artists living and working around Los Angeles. But, with a career that was taking off in several directions at once, Intveld soon found he could not keep up with the demands, so he turned the Barn Dance over to Mack. Moving from the small Little Nashville Club to the world-renowned Club Palomino in North Hollywood, Mack's Barn Dance continued to promote California roots music until shortly before the Pal closed for good in 1995. Moving to a new venue at the corner of Hollywood and Vine gave new life to Mack, the show, and the entire scene. Located at Jack's Sugar Shack, every Tuesday night was a celebration as well as a meeting place for local musicians and those from out of town seeking some companionship and a cold one. Visitors like Connie Smith, Robert Reynolds, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Woodruff were not uncommon in the audience or on the stage.
Another aspect of Mack's good standing in the community was his work with and for various charities. As the host of the annual Elvis Birthday Bash, another event that was the brainchild of Intveld, Mack worked alongside local industry insider Art Fine in order to pull off the big show that features a wide variety of acts all doing Elvis songs. Besides Mack, Yoakam, Flores, and Intveld, the Elvis tribute attracted Dave Alvin, Wanda Jackson, Johnny Rivers, Lee Rocker, Big Sandy, and roots rock royalty Barry Holdship and Florida Slim. The money raised from this event always went to a charity for the homeless. While his own success was fleeting, he never faltered from his chosen path. In 1996 the Swedish SunJay label released a 28-cut compilation built around the many singles he recorded for Rollin' Rock, Lonesome Town, and SunJay Records between June of 1981 and ending with a live recording from the Palomino in 1994, including Mack's 1986 cover of the Intveld hit "My Heart Is Achin' for You." ~ Jana Pendragon, Rovi