Below are the introductory notes from the package of New & Used Tunes, Vol 1.
Mo Mack, I confess, is a nickname. Legally I’m known as Morris McClellan. I mention it to introduce two older brothers, who dragged me into music. Mike, some five years my senior, was doing a credible imitation of Leadbelly when he was 15. He left the family three years later to embark on the life of a folk singer, after having indoctrinated the middle brother Bill in the joys of Bluegrass and old-timey music. Later, Bill made me learn to play the guitar so he’d have someone to keep the rhythm while he played banjo, mandolin or fiddle. The three of us still play together when we can, and you never know what’s coming next: Cajun, Hawaiian, Gospel, Bluegrass, Blues, Dixieland, R&R, a Corrido of Mike’s or some strange hybrid Bill has thought up. A plug for Mike: he’s written excellent manuals on how to play Hawaiian slack-key guitar and Cajun accordian. If you’re interested, email me and I’ll put you in touch.
Once hooked, I delved into all forms of the blues and country, discovered Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman, and fell hard for Honky Tonk music, Chicago Blues and early Rock & Roll. Anything close to the roots grabbed my attention. I was also listening to pop radio and was a dedicated Lovin’ Spoonful fan. As for schooling, it took me ten years and six different colleges, but finally I escaped from the University of California at Santa Cruz with a degree in the History of Country & Western Music and went to LA to start a band and be a songwriter.
I built a studio in my basement to demo my songs. Along the way I wound up producing an acoustic guitar album called “A Collection of Favourite Christmas Carols” featuring Lewis Ross, who layered multiple parts and simulated what I dubbed “The New American Guitar Ensemble.” (Another plug: this great album is still available on Revere Records.) The album sold surprisingly well and illuminated a new marketplace. As a result, I spent the next 15 years building Lifedance Distribution, a company that introduced the idea of playing and selling instrumental music to the gift industry. Lewis and his wife, Eleanor, became my business partners in this endeavor.
After 15 years of instrumental music, I needed to return to what I’d begun. My partners generously bought me out so I could focus on this album. Lewis and I recorded the basic tracks, and Lewis added all his extra parts. Lewis is truly a master multi-instrumentalist, not to mention a fine recording engineer. As you listen to this album, I believe you’ll come to agree with me. I learned so much and grew tremendously as a musician and a person over the course of our association. So Lewis, thanks for all your gracious contributions to this album and my life.
Besides Lewis, I was blessed with a bunch of great players who contributed to the sound of my “Company.” All the fiddling was done by Skip Parente, off of whom music drips like honey. Mick Doherty, who like Skip is a regular member of the Oregon Trail Band, hammered the dulcimer part on “Stars in My Crown.” On flute is John Savage, a world-class player equally at home on classical, jazz, and as we discovered on this album folk and country. I love his interplay with the fiddle on the instrumental on “Time.” Appearing on bass is Chuck Jacobs, who provides the bass lines when Kenny Rogers goes on tour. Frank Gruner, often heard accompanying his piano playing wife Sally Harmon, played the bass on “Stars.” The drums were played by either Albie Burke, Carlton Jackson, or Brian Davis. Albie is an amazing drummer who is kept busy by the studios in Los Angeles, while Carlton and Brian are both widely known and recognised for their percussionary excellence around the Portland, OR, music scene. Bobby Torres, another highly respected Portland percussionist, contributed his handiwork to “Time.” Caton Lyles, with his big bag of interesting and strange percussion toys, is heard spicing up several tunes. Singing background and harmony is Suzi Stern, known in both Portland and Austin, TX, as one of the finest jazz singers around. John Boelling, for several seasons the lead tenor for the choir of First Unitarian Church in Portland, shows that beneath his classical training grow some healthy folk roots. Blending beautifully with me on “Time” is Meg Walsh, who is also from the same choir. The Rebel Voices and my daughter Raina Rose are noted above in the program notes.
Other thank yous are in order. Over the last 8 years, I had two voice teachers who helped me raise my singing to respectability. Thanks to Suzi Stern, who fixed my pitch, and to Brenda Sloan Stevens, who unlocked the secrets of tone. A thank you is certainly due my loving and very tolerant wife, Leana. Musicians are not always easy to live with. What’s that joke? What’s the difference between a savings bond and a musician? Answer: A savings bond eventually matures. An official thanks to my brothers, Mike and Bill. I’m certain my life would be far different without you guys as siblings. And to my mother, Edith “Bunny” Bartlett McClellan Ricker, my saint, guru, and favorite Scrabble partner, to you I dedicate this album. No doubt I’ll see you again, sometime, so keep a Scrabble board handy.
Love, Peace and Goodwill to All,