On the day he was due to perform at First Avenue in Minneapolis, where his legendary group the Faces once played in the 1970s, British rock vet Ian McLagan died Wednesday after suffering a stroke at his home near Austin, Texas. He was 69.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame keyboardist and bandleader -- who also played with the Rolling Stones and got his start with the Small Faces -- was supposed to be in Minneapolis on Tuesday to rehearse for tonight’s show with Nick Lowe, the kick-off to a holiday-themed tour. Sources said friends went to McLagan's house a half-hour outside Austin to check on him when he did not make it to the rehearsals.
First Avenue staff is reporting that tonight's show will still go on. McLagan was supposed to open the concert and then perform with Lowe and backing band Los Straitjackets. Local country stalwarts the Cactus Blossoms had already been tapped as a replacement warm-up act when news of McLagan's hospitalization got out.
Lowe recorded a session at 89.3 the Current earlier this afternoon when McLagan's condition was still unknown. The session, in which Lowe reportedly wished his tourmate well, will still air at 5 p.m. At 6 p.m., the station (89.3 FM) will spin 10 tracks featuring McLagan's soulful handiwork.
Also a renowned sideman who toured with the Rolling Stones and recorded with the likes of Chuck Berry, Bruce Springsteen and Minneapolis' Paul Westerberg, McLagan has been a regular visitor to the Twin Cities in recent years, including a gig at the Belmore/New Skyway Lounge in 2013 and a session at 89.3 the Current in June to promote his new album, “United States.”
"Without any exageration, he was the kindest, most humble and pleasant person I've worked with, and yet he was a legend," Belmore/New Skyway Lounge owner Doug Anderson said, echoing statements heard around Austin since "Mac" moved there in 1994. "He hung out with us all day and then stayed up with us until about 4 a.m. Obviously, he had a lot of great stories."
Twin Cities scenester Rob Chapman said he was to meet with McLagan today for a book he is working on about the short-lived all-star band the New Barbarians, with McLagan, his Faces mate Ronnie Wood and sax legend Bobby Keys, who died Tuesday. Said Chapman, "Everytime I got to talk with Ian, he was the sweetest guy in the world, completely down-to-earth even though he played behind two of the biggest rock singers of all time, Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart."
The 69-year-old, 5-foot-5 rocker followed his late bandmate Ronnie Lane to Austin with his wife, Kim McLagan, who died in a car accident in 2006. He is survived by his and Kim's daughter, Mandy, whose biological father was the Who's late drummer Keith Moon.
In an interview with the Austin American-Statesman this summer, McLagan confirmed that a Faces reunion with Wood, Stewart and drummer Kenney Jones was on the table for next year. Whether or not that still happens, it would now be without two of the band's cornerstone members.
Rolling Stone's obituary on McLagan includes this quote from Jones: "I am completely devastated by this shocking news, and I know this goes for Ronnie and Rod also."
Here's a sweet McLagan performance from Letterman in 2009.