Mississippi musician Mac McAnally is bringing his one-man show to Music City Texas in Linden on Saturday.
Courtesy Photo

Multi-talented Mac McAnally comes to NE Texas

Nashville Hall of Fame musician does Linden show for old friend

By TERRY MATHEWS, News-Telegram Arts Editor

April 16 2008 - By anyone's yardstick, Mac McAnally is a busy man. He is a music producer, session player, publisher, studio owner and story teller who has released several CDs of his own. For about 6 months of the year, he is the music director of the moving carnival called the Jimmy Buffett tour. The Mississippi native wears a lot of hats -and he wears them well.

"Mac," as he is called by friends and fans, has set aside a block of time to appear at Music City Texas in Linden Saturday night.

Richard Bowden, the driving force behind MCT, and Mac were studio musicians together in Nashville.

"I've know Richard for, gosh, about 25 years," Mac said during a phone interview. "Linden's lucky to have him."

The two friends have been trying to put a show together for several years, but the timing hasn't been right.

"We've been talking about this for years," Mac said. "I have somehow or the other ended up working every day for the past four or five years. But, I've looked forward to playing Linden all of that time."

Joey Baker, director of tourism for the city of Sulphur Springs, is a long-time fan.

"I started listening to Mac in 1976 or 1977," Baker said. " He's a great storyteller. He just does it with a tune."

Baker was a student at Mississippi State University when he first met Mac. He handled the sound equipment set up for Mac's gig at the college. Baker was impressed by what he heard.

"The things he was singing about, they just seemed to connect with me," Baker explained. "Maybe it was the fact that we both grew up in Mississippi."

Mac's ability to connect with his audiences is rooted in his rearing. His dad was an educator who loved music. His mother played piano. She played in church; she played for all-day Saturday singings and for gospel groups who toured the South.

"There were always a bunch of instruments in my house," Mac said. "Music was always playing. I was gone to gospel singings as many nights as not when I was growing up. I liked that because I got to eat a lot more fried chicken than I would of gotten at home. I heard a lot of preaching. I heard a lot of singing. It seeped through."

It was as a teen-ager that Mac first saw Buffett in concert.

"I saw Buffett play at a festival in Jackson, Mississippi," he said. "On the same venue was Larry Raspberry and the HighSteppers. Legendary harmonica man Greg 'Fingers' Taylor was playing with both bands. These guys were my heroes. I was probably 15 at the time."

At the time, Mac, who was born in Belmont, MS, was in a band, too.

"We were the country side of the Rolling Stones, which was pretty good for a bunch of Mississippi yay-hoos," Mac said. "We couldn't get to the end of a song without stopping. That was a bar you want to be able to clear."

And clear it he has. For many years, Mac has led the Coral Reefer Band, the talented musicians who back up Buffett on tour.

"We usually get to the end of a song," he says with a laugh.

Mac has recorded several albums and has written songs covered by other artists.

Country group Sawyer Brown took "All These Years" to the top spot on the charts in the 1990s, and Kenny Chesney features "Back Where I Come From" on his "Greatest Hits" CD.

Mac, who just turned 50, has also proven to be a valuable asset to others as a producer.

He produced artists like Little Feat, Sawyer Brown and Ricky Scaggs. He served as producer for the collaborative "Live at Texas Stadium" album, featuring Buffett, Alan Jackson and George Strait. He has also produced Strait's last two albums.

Mac's talents are in high demand in the studio, too. He's played backup for Roy Orbinson, Hank Williams Jr., Amy Grant, Travis Tritt, Linda Rondstadt, Reba McEntire, Alabama and Dolly Parton.

In recognition of his many contributions to the Nashville music scene, Mac was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in September of last year. As much as he enjoys working, Mac has made some changes in his life in the last few years.

"I came from a very patient family and a very quiet and peaceful place," he said. "Since I got to be about 45 years old, I'm consciously making myself less patient. It doesn't feel natural yet, but I think I'm going to get a handle on it."

This change in attitude came when Mac realized that time "wasn't a big infinite pile."

"I come from a family of short-life span-men from Mississippi," he said. "I've got three kids I'm crazy about. I've got music I'm crazy about. I've got lots of friends that I really want to be good to. I want to be a good brother to my sisters, so things that don't matter as much, I dismiss them quicker than I ever have in my life."

Clearly, making time to play a gig for an old friend matters to Mac, even if the act of performing itself is not second nature.

"Because of where I come from, I am so bashful," he said. "In truth, I will not perform unless there's absolutely no one else on the stage. If there's a pet on stage, I will defer to that and become the side man."

The self-effacing musician sells himself short, according to Baker.

"He's a wonderful performer," Baker explained. "Mac and James Taylor, when they sit up on the stage and play, there can be 10,000 people in the audience, but they make you feel that they're performing just for you. There's a direct connect there."

When: Saturday, April 19

Where: Music City Texas, Linden

Time: Doors open at 6 p.m. Show begins at 8 p.m.

Tickets: $20.

Call 903-756-9934 for tickets and directions.

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