DIARY - 26 DECEMBER 2004 - MACK VICKERY RIP
VICKERY RIP @ 66
FIREMAN FLAME SNUFFED
BORN TOWN CREEK, ALABAMA, - JUNE 8, 1938.
DIED NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - DECEMBER 21, 2004
"Well they call me the fireman, that's my name/ making my rounds
all over town, putting out old flames." - The Fireman - Mack Vickery-Wayne
honky tonk singer-songwriter and embryonic Sun Records singer Mack
Vickery has died at 66.
Vickery was born in Town Creek, Alabama, but reportedly died of a
heart attack in Nashville on December 21.
Mack was a character who rode in the same hell-raising caboose as
the late Harlan Howard and Max D Barnes.
a brace of hits for artists diverse as George Strait, Waylon Jennings,
Willie Nelson, Vern Gosdin, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Anderson, Tanya Tucker
and the late Johnny Paycheck.
He won BMI Awards for The Fireman - a big hit for Texan rancher
Strait - and The Jamestown Ferry for Texan temptress Tanya Tucker.
Vickery's 222 plus song catalogue included collaborations with Gosdin,
Jack Mack, Wayne Kemp, Bobby Borchers, Hank Cochran, Merle Kilgore, Guy
Mitchell, Billy Don Burns, Glenn Martin, Jerry Lasseter, Red Lane and
And in 1992 the Alabama Music Hall of Fame honoured him with a bronze
star in its Walkway of Stars.
SUN RECORDS DEBUT
entrée was not easy - his mother died when he was four and his
dad raised him and his brothers.
Mack first went to Memphis to try his luck in the music business in late
'57, cutting three songs for Sun Records.
They were Fool Proof, Drive In and Have You Ever Been Lonely.
No single was forthcoming though and they remained unissued for several
But he had releases on a range of labels including Princetown, Gone (the
great Goin' Back To St. Louis), Jamie, Afco and Playboy, even using aliases
like Vick Vickers and Atlanta James.
Recording under the name Atlanta James for MCA Records, Vickery made his
own chart debut in 1974 with That Kind of Fool.
His next and final two chart singles, Ishabilly and Here's to
the Horses, came in 1977 on the Playboy label.
Young launched Vickery's career as a songwriter when he took his co-write
with Merle Kilgore on She Went a Little Bit Farther to #14
It was to be his songwriting that gave him his greatest achievements
though and he started getting regular country hits.
Hank Williams Jr., Ernest Tubb and Sammi Smith also covered the song.
Later he collaborated with Kilgore again for Let Someone Else Drive
- a #10 hit for John Anderson who also cut his song Tokyo Oklahoma.
''Rockin' My Life Away is his whole life in one song,'' said
Kilgore, who signed Mr. Vickery to his first publishing contract.
''I never met anybody in my whole career that wanted to be around
the music 24 hours a day, but all Mack wanted to do was sing, be in
clubs and be around music people. He just didn't want to go to bed.''
the Faron Young success he returned to the charts via Tanya Tucker who
hit #5 with Jamestown Ferry.
Other classics that he's written include I'm The Only Hell My Mother
Ever Raised that Johnny Paycheck took to #8 and You Gotta Be Puttin'
Me On by Lefty Frizzell.
I've heard rumours that the eagle may be lame/ just because I've been
idle don't mean that I'm tame/ I can fly if I have to, if they turn the
eagle loose." The Eagle - Hank Cochran-Red Lane, Mack Vickery
Waylon Jennings cut a few of his songs - it was a match made in heaven.
They included Cedartown, Georgia, The Eagle, The Watchman and I
Can't Keep My Hands Off You.
Cedartown, Georgia is a great tale of a revenge-seeking husband
whose woman has been caught cheating on him.
Waylon took it to #12 on the country charts in 1971.
Jennings also cut the stunningly beautiful, I Can't Keep My Hands Of
Off You, in 1974 for his Ramblin' Man album.
It's a love song with sensual lyrics backed with some great tear-in-your-beer
steel by Ralph Mooney.
Waylon's buddy Shotgun Willie Nelson also recorded The Rainmaker
and 2 With a 10 and Lefty Frizzell and Vern Gosdin cut You Gotta
Be Puttin' Me On.
AND THE KILLER
and Jerry Lee Lewis were kindred spirits in Mack's early days.
The Killer cut many of his songs from ballads like Honky Tonk
Wine, Ivory Tears, I Sure Miss Those Good Old Times and That
Old Bourbon Street Church to storming rockers Meat Man
and Rockin' My Life Away, both of which have remained constants
in Jerry Lee's live shows.
was present at legendary 1973 Southern Roots session that Jerry Lee cut
using just southern musicians, southern songs and plenty of southern whiskey.
Jerry Lee has an absolute ball with Meat Man - no one on earth
was better placed or prepared to shout out the bragging innuendoes of
his sexual prowess.
Vickery or Jerry were not talking about animals and butchers.
It was at this session that Jerry Lee also cut That Old Bourbon Street
Church - an unusual song for Mack, but again the chemistry between
writer and interpreter is spot on, with Jerry Lee delivering a soul-drenched
Equally as good was his biographical rocker Rockin' My Life Away.
rancher and superstar George Strait also plucked songs from Mack's deep
catalogue for hits.
They included My Old Flame Is Burnin' Another Honky Tonk Down, She
Knows When You're On My Mind and award winning #10 hit The Fireman.
Hank Williams Jr's early albums were peppered with Vickery compositions.
In 1989 Mack won the MCN (Music City News - later the TNN) award for Song
Of The Year for I'll Leave This World Loving You - a hit for Ricky
It is one of those delicate songs that has touched the hearts of many,
and has been used at funerals and on hymn sheets.
The partnership also proved success on Who'll Turn Out The Lights -
also covered by Ronnie McDowell who also cut Hot Burning Flames
that Vickery had penned with Hank Cochran and Wayne Kemp.
Kemp has been a long time collaborator with Vickery.
Texan legend George Jones cut I'll Give You Something To Drink About
for his I Lived To Tell It All album.
Another Nashville legend to use his work was Johnny Cash who cut Vickery's
God Bless Robert E. Lee for his Johnny 99 album and Walkin'
Free Streets Again.
DENTIST CHAIR AND GIRLS GAOL
was also renowned for the dentist chair in his bedroom.
The cover photo of his 1970 album cut Live At The Alabama Women's
Prison shows him one side of the prison bars with four lusty jailbirds
the other side, and it's hard to tell whether they want to get out
of their cell more than he wants to get in!
''He went down and got buddy-buddy with the warden,'' Kilgore said.
''It was a female warden. They had a few drinks together, and he talked
her into letting him come down there. He came out onstage like Elvis
- shaking - and them women went wild.''
times he wrote a song with Chief Bearheart of the Perdido Bay Tribe of
Lower Muscogee Creek Indians called I Knew We Could All Get Along When
An Indian Sings a Cowboy Song so the humour still seems to be there.
He made a welcome appearance at the Jerry Lee Lewis Convention that celebrated
his 66th birthday, joining the Killer on stage for Can't Rock No More,
Meat Man and Will The Circle Be Unbroken.
other honky tonkers included Jones on the Jukebox for Becky Hobbs
and Let's Get Over Them Together for Becky and Moe Bandy.
He also penned Waiting for the Tables to Turn - cut by Tanya Tucker
Wayne Kemp, Charlie Pride & Hank Williams Jr.
Strait and Playboy bunny come singer Barbi Benton also cut Brass Buckles
and Hot Burning Flames.
Texan honky tonker Mark Chesnutt and Emilio Navaro covered Mack's Honky
Tonk Habits and Settling For What They Get.
Vickery wrote Desperate Men and Outlaws at the Cross with Billy
''Ol' Mack was something else,'' said Burns, a friend and collaborator.
''He did party and get down, but he was a kind person who was good to
everybody. He made everybody feel like they were somebody.''
Hank Jr and Anderson also recorded I Can't Take it Any Longer.
Faron Young, Ernest Tubb and Louise Mandrell covered A Little Bit Further
and Some of my best Friends are Old Songs.
THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY
Vickery, like many peers, will also be remembered for some of his songs
that escaped without a chart magnet.
His 222 plus song catalogue includes gems such as -
Boston's Busiest Peeping Tom
· The Bubblegum Bandit
· Bad Girls
· Cheating Our Way To Heaven
· Don't Touch My Yum, Yum
· Three Proverbial Rodents With Defective Vision
· Falling Out Shelter
· Harvey Harrington IV The Roach,
· Love Held The Gun, Hate Pulled The Trigger
· Salesman for Jesus
· Send Me A Box Of Kleenex
· Paper Prison
· Pied Piper
· She's Up To My Old Tricks
· Your Sugar Bowl Is Empty Now.
· Heaven Ain't A Honky Tonk
Funeral arrangements are pending.
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