With sadness, we report that former Small Faces/Faces keyboardist, session musician and solo artist Ian McLagan has died at age 69. Paste magazine reports that the legendary musician passed away at 2:39 p.m. Central time in an Austin, Texas, hospital, after suffering a stroke.
In Jon Regen's October 2014 feature-length interview, McLagan described how he combined session and solo in his later career: "If I could get away from doing sessions for other people, I would," he said. "Unless it's for an artist like Lucinda Williams, whose album I just played on earlier this year. She's unbelievable, and that was a lot of fun. But the sessions and royalties give me money that allows me to make the records and tours with my band."
Below are remembrances from musicians and friends who knew him. We'll be adding more as we receive them.
One of the miraculous things about my job at Keyboard is the near daily influx of inspiration I receive from some of the most accomplished musicians on the planet. But Ian McLagan wasn't only a giant behind the keyboard - he was a gem of a human being who within minutes of meeting you made you feel like a member of his inner circle. He was the definition of optimism, and at the age of 69 was still thinking about the NEXT gig, the next song he would write, the next Hammond organ he would find and restore. A myriad of things have been said about him since his untimely passing, but maybe Ian said it best in his closing answers to my cover story on him from the October issue where he said, "I am thankful to still be doing this. And I’m still learning!” Words to truly live by. Thanks, Mac. You were, in the words of your terrific new song, "Pure Gold.”
Jon Regen, Editor at Large (shown at left after interviewing McLagan for our October 2014 cover story)
I don't even know where to start. I bought "Itchycoo Park" the moment I heard it -- I was 13 or 14 -- and I've chased his sound & feel ever since. The undisputed "King of the Wurlitzer," a master of the Rock & Roll piano, and oh what a lovely Hammond player. And he could write! We only met a handful of times, but he was an absolute sweetheart to me. We've really lost a treasure here. Rest in Peace. - Benmont Tench (keyboardist in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)
Mac was the Real Deal. Deep soul, great chops, groove always in the pocket. Whether hammering on the 88s, finessing a Wurly or gliding on the B3, he inspired us all and put smiles on our faces. He was also one of the nicest and funniest guys I’ve ever known. A true jewel of a man. RIP, my Brother. The band upstairs just got a little better. - Chuck Leavell (current keyboardist in the Rolling Stones)
I finally got to meet Ian here in Austin when he played a club downtown this year. He approached his playing with such vibrant energy and he was happy, friendly and a pleasure to meet. I was shocked to hear of his passing. Life can be fragile. He will be missed by many. - Gregg Rolie (original keyboardist in Santana)
Ian was a master of the Wurlitzer electric piano and especially of the Hammond organ. He was a wonderful gentleman who will be missed, although his recorded performances will live forever! - Paul Shaffer
I got to work with Ian on an album when he was a member of Pat McLaughlin’s band. He was a wonderful guy and , of course, great musician. I got the chance to ask him about one of my all-time favorite keyboard parts/sounds - how he got the sound on the opening Wurlitzer piano riff on "Stay With Me." Of course he had a proper rock and roll answer. Something to the effect of "Glyn (Johns) just shoved it through an (Ampeg) SVT, and set up a mic." Essentially how most great records were made! - Mitchell Froom (renowned music producer)
If you are a keyboard player and want to know what to play in a rock and roll band, do your best to copy Ian McLagan, and you will be on your way. - Kim Bullard (keyboardist for Elton John)
I could go on all day on his musical brilliance - just YouTube the Faces' 1971 BBC Crown Jewels show to get a glimpse—but I'd rather highlight a legacy that Ian McLagan represented to me...as a band member. If you play Rock & Roll piano or B3 organ in a band—take time to thank Ian McLagan. Let's get real—he was one of the first "piano guys" to be an actual card-carrying full-fledged member of a top-notch Rock band. The Faces were the cool, boozy Pub band that somehow married loosey-goosey with sophistication. The Stones, Beatles, The Who—great stuff, but no official (keyboard) guy that had the exalted power of actually properly sharing the stage and studio as a Band Member. He was an EQUAL. Not just a rented cat to come in to supply some formulaic parts and sound filler for another's vision—but an active, valued member participating in DIALOGUE with the other instruments—and even allowed to make eye-contact & conversation with—gasp—the singer... Even the most jaded, guitar-centric rock guitarist snobs that I know will admit—Ian was THE MAN. A master of the Holy Trinity of Rock keyboards: B3 organ, Honky Tonk piano—those over-driven Wurlys! Boogie Woogie. Trippy. Greasy. Ian ROLLED. He got us into the party, man. A whole lotta cool just left the stage. - Jeff Kazee
My first memory of Ian McLagan was hearing the opening Wurly riff on the Rolling Stones' "Miss You” and scrambling for the liner notes, thinking “Who played that?” I met Ian last year when I was playing in Austin with John Mayer. I saw him play with the Bump Band, then went out for a pint with him, spent the evening talking shop (B-3's and Nord's) and meeting his band & friends. I got to tell him I loved his autobiography All The Rage, which I recommend any keyboard player read. I’m thankful for that evening. - Andy Burton (keyboardist for John Mayer)
I'll always remember Ian, growing up listening to the Faces and the Stones in the late 60s and early 70s and wondering who that was on the piano and organ. Finally looking into who this "Bad Boy" was, Ian McLagan is who we tried to to play like when we first joined our rock bands because of his distinct style and feel. Oo La La brother, We'll miss you – Ricky Peterson
I was lucky enough to know Mac and had a lot of chuckles with him. He was a naturally funny bloke. My fondest memories are from about 10 years ago when he was in New Orleans working with me and John Porter on a Ryan Adams record. The session was pretty grueling, Markeys Bar had the best Guinness in town, and we'd retire there every night after getting through. Mac was the life of the party and became so enamoured of the ebony nectar that he ended up behind the bar pulling the pints and pretty much taking over the place (much to the amusement of everyone, bar staff included). If we weren't at Markeys or the studio, we'd be in my funky little French Quarter apartment digging on scratchy old Smiley Lewis 78s on my beat-up record player with cups of tea and spliffs. I'm going to miss him. - Jon Cleary
He was the guy that made keyboards cool. He got it right. He got his personality through. We all wanted to be the 'Mac' of the band. - Mikey Rowe (Keyboardist Sheryl Crow, Noel Gallagher)
A big loss to the keyboard world...Ian was a creative and soulful player...His playing brought energy and vibe to every track he played on, from the early faces stuff, thru his time with the Stones, and hundreds of killer colabs he was involved with to this day...he was and heavy session cat too, not many people know that...he will always be well respected and remembered. - Peter Levin (Gregg Allman Band)
Ian McLagan was in on the ground floor of “classic” rock, and a strong and heartfelt musical presence in so many tunes...I’m most familiar with his work with the Faces, Ron Wood, and the Stones. I consider him a super sideman, a visionary studio player and band member who could make a profound musical statement without overshadowing the song or the artist. Artists like Ian are the reason that so much of rock music from back in the day is inexplicably amazing. We ask “why does/how can this sound so great?” It’s greater than the sum of its parts. I learned Ian’s “Stay With Me” Wurlitzer solo more than once. It’s one of those must play musical moments. When I listen to that track I can hear how he wasn’t just blowing a rocking, intense solo, but he was also nudging the band along, elevating the intensity throughout the entire track. And, ironically, I just read in Jon Regen's recent interview that Ian didn’t like to solo. Go figure! - Scott Healy (Grammy-nominated jazz musician and longtime keyboardist for TV's Conan O'Brien)
Mac was such an amazing soul. His greatest accomplishment was that absolutely EVERYONE loved him. he will be deeply missed. - George Marinelli (songwriter, producer, guitarist with Bonnie Raitt)
I was fortunate enough to play with Mac on several occasions over the past decade, most recently (and most importantly) at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction of the Faces and Small Faces. I was kind of grandfathered in since I play bass in Rod Stewart's band, but once we started jamming Mac and the gang treated me just like one of the guys. He had a great energy and love for playing and you could always count on him for a good hang. - Conrad Korsch (Bassist for Rod Stewart)
I was lucky enough to work with him on the recent Small Faces box set. What a thrill. We were supposed to record some tracks for my next record last summer but our schedules didn't collide. I really regret that, but even more I'll miss hearing him play and the way he always made me laugh. Mac was loud and bluesy, but also tasteful and autumnal in his playing. One of a kind. - Jeff Slate (Musician/Writer)
A sweet and very funny man, a great rock and roll piano player; always an ally in the studio and the best company in the pub... What could be better? I don't think that Mac had a mean bone in his body, and I shall be forever grateful for the times we had making music and having fun. We'll miss you, old friend. - John Porter (producer, Ryan Adams, The Smiths, BB King)