Ian McLagan, keyboardist for the ‘60s British rock band the Small Faces (known in the ’70s as the Faces), died Wednesday in Austin, Texas. He was 69.
McLagan – a 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee – suffered a stroke at his home on Tuesday evening and died in the hospital today. He had been scheduled to open a tour with Nick Lowe in Minneapolis tonight.
Known universally as “Mac” to his friends and fans, the diminutive, high-spirited pianist and organist was also a well-traveled sideman who worked in the studio and on stage with such notables as his Faces colleague Rod Stewart, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Bonnie Raitt, among many others.
Born in Hounslow, England, near London, McLagan began his professional career amid the British blues scene of the early ’60s. His first professional work came with the Muleskinners, first as a rhythm guitarist and then as a keyboardist; the act backed touring American bluesmen and opened club dates for the reigning British blues-rock combo of the day, the Rolling Stones.
In 1965, McLagan joined the Small Faces, which became one of the most prominent of the flamboyantly dressed “mod” rock bands in the U.K. The group’s hits on Decca and Immediate – featuring McLagan’s distinctive Hammond organ work — included “Sha-La-La-La-Lee,” “All or Nothing,” “Here Comes the Nice,” “Lazy Sunday” and “Itchycoo Park” (which became the band’s biggest U.S. hit, reaching No. 16 in 1967). Their LPs included the 1968 psychedelic concept album “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake.”
Following the departure of lead vocalist Steve Marriott for Humble Pie in 1969, the Small Faces regrouped as the Faces, with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood of the Jeff Beck Group joining the lineup. The group logged three top-30 albums in the U.S. (concurrent with Stewart’s solo popularity); the 1971 set “A Nod Is as Good as a Wink…To a Blind Horse” reached No. 6. The single “Stay With Me” reached No. 17 in 1972. The act disbanded in 1975. (McLagan produced Rhino’s 2004 Faces retrospective “Five Guys Walk Into a Bar…”)
Relocating to Los Angeles in 1978, McLagan distinguished himself as a super-sideman. He both recorded and toured with the Stones in the early ’80s, and was a member (with saxophonist Bobby Keys, who died on Tuesday) of Keith Richards and Ron Wood’s touring supergroup the New Barbarians. He supported Dylan on the 1984 tour captured on the album “Real Live.” He was featured on Springsteen’s 1992 albums “Human Touch” and “Lucky Town.”
In L.A., McLagan was a core member of singer-songwriter Pat McLaughlin’s band, which enjoyed a long residency at the Hollywood bar Raji’s. After moving to Austin – long the home of his late Faces bandmate Ronnie Lane — following the 1994 L.A. earthquake, he would himself take up a decade-long Thursday-night gig at the Lucky Lounge on Fifth Street downtown, fronting his group the Bump Band.
In his own right, McLagan recorded a pair of solo albums for Mercury and several independent collections on his own Maniac label. In June, he released “United States” on Yep Roc. This year, he was also featured on the debut album by the Empty Hearts, a garage unit featuring former members of Blondie, the Cars, the Romantics and the Chesterfield Kings.
He published a memoir, “All the Rage,” in 1995.
McLagan’s wife Kim – the ex-wife of the Who’s Keith Moon – was killed in a car accident in 2006.