Born Wiley Laverne Self, 22 May 1930, Calico Bottoms, Phillips County, Arkansas, died 14 June 2011, West Helena, Arkansas

Mack Self is one those unsung heroes at Sun Records whose rockabilly was closer to the country end of the spectrum than the rock 'n' roll one. Though he had a mere two singles released by Sam Phillips, one on Sun and one on Phillips International, Sam persevered with him over a period of some four years (1955-59).

Mack started making music (singing and playing the guitar) with his friend C.W. Gatlin when he was 15. In 1955, after playing a radio show on KXJK in Forrest City, Arkansas, deejay Hal Webber persuaded him to record a demo of the song "Easy To Love", which had received a lot of audience response. Mack recorded the song with his band at the KXJK Studio and the tape found its way to Sam Phillips, who invited him for an audition. Mack's first Sun session produced a version of "Easy To Love" that was not completely to Sam's satisfaction. A reworked version was recorded in March 1957 and released on Sun 273 in June 1957, coupled with "Every Day". Both sides were hillbilly waltzes, too country for the rockabilly fan and also too country for the crossover country market in 1957. Moreover, Sam Phillips was now spending most of his promotional budget on Jerry Lee Lewis. So it will come as no surprise that Mack's single failed to do any business. Hank Davis, in his Bear Family notes for "The Complete Sun Singles" project, has called Sun 273 "utterly gorgeous" and "beautiful in the old fashioned way". Mack's second single was released in October 1959, on Phillips International 3548. It combined "Mad At You" from a 1957 session with "Willie Brown", which was recorded on August 15, 1959. "Mad At You" is pure rockabilly, but an anachronism by the time it was released. For some years, popular speculation had it that the harmony singer on "Mad At You" was Charlie Feathers, but in the end it turned out to be Jimmy Evans. "Willie Brown" was an ersatz folk tune, clearly inspired by the Kingston Trio hit "Tom Dooley". A much better track from that August 1959 session was "Lovin' Memories", which was first released in 1986. Other originally unissued Sun cuts that have since become available are "Goin'Crazy", the excellent "Vibrate", "Little One" and "I've Got Pennies In My Pocket".

In 1962 and 1964, Mack recorded six songs for the Zone label in Memphis, with producer Chips Moman. These were all country, as were the recordings he made in the early 1970s for Twin Records. Self quit the nightclub circuit in 1963, devoting his time to raising his six children and to running his heating, air and sheet metal business. In 1992, he returned to music, playing occasional dates with his Silver Dollar Band. He lives in West Helena, Arkansas, with his wife of 48 years, Hazel.

More info :

Mack's complete recordings have been collected on the CD "Vibrate" (Gee Dee CD 270130-2, Germany) in 1997. 30 tracks, most of them previously unissued. Almost all songs are Mack's own compositions.


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