Something just clicked when British keyboard player Ian McLagan was introduced to Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones, and Steve Marriott.
"They were adorable. They were the same height as me. They wore the same clothes. We could have been related," said McLagan, who in November, 1965, joined the up-and-coming band Small Faces.
McLagan will be in concert tomorrow night with his band since 1980, the Bump Band, headlining the Rally by the River in Promenade Park. Opening will be psychedelic rockers ? and the Mysterians, best known for the classic 1966 hit song "96 Tears."
Starting in 1966, the Small Faces enjoyed a string of hits in Great Britain that included "Hey Girl," "All or Nothing," "My Mind's Eye," and "Lazy Sunday." Yet they barely cracked the charts in the United States and are most known for the 1968 psychedelic ballad "Itchycoo Park."
Four years after their formation, the Small Faces disbanded, and Lane, McLagan, and Jones regrouped with guitarist Ronnie Wood, a future Rolling Stone, and singer Rod Stewart, who went on to solo stardom, and dubbed the new band the Faces.
Mac, as he is often called, has played piano and organ with a who's who of rock and roll, including the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan.
"People ask me what was more crazy, touring with the Faces or the Rolling Stones?" McLagan said in an interview last week. "I always tell 'em the Small Faces."
That group loved to party, he said, but even more than that, they loved to play music.
"I've been in bands that didn't care if they played a gig or not," McLagan said. "But when I was in the Small Faces, we played every chance we could get. We played all the time. We'd go in for a soundcheck and have to stop after an hour."
McLagan, a native of Middlesex, England, moved to the musical mecca of Austin, Texas, in 1994. He and his Bump Band still play a regular Thursday night gig at the Lucky Lounge when they're in town.
"I still love to play, and I have more energy now than I used to," said McLagan, who turned 62 last month. The Bump Band's lineup features Mark Andes on bass, Don Harvey on drums, and "Scrappy" Jud Newcomb and Gurf Morlix on guitars.
"The Lucky Lounge gig is not exactly a rehearsal but it keeps us fresh. It's like a marriage. We are very comfortable together," he said.
He is finishing up a new disc called "Never Say Never," whose recording was interrupted by a special project: McLagan's tribute to Ronnie Lane, his close friend from the Small Faces who died of multiple sclerosis in 1997. "I'm real proud of it. I felt like Ronnie guided me to it," McLagan said. "He always followed his heart, even when he failed miserably."
Early in 2006, when McLagan realized that Lane's 60th birthday was coming up April 1, he decided to put "Never Say Never" on hold and finish the tribute album, titled "Spiritual Boy."
"I worked on it every day for 5 1/2 weeks, and we played several of his songs on his birthday, before his family and friends," McLagan said. "It was a labor of love."
Rally by the River starts at 6 tomorrow night in Promenade Park. Admission is $5; children 12 and under free with paid adult.
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