Faces' keyboardist Ian McLagan dead at 69

Story highlights

  • Ian McLagan was a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame keyboardist
  • He was part of the Small Faces and the Faces, later a noted session man
  • He played on albums by the Rolling Stones, Lucinda Williams, Bruce Springsteen
Ian McLagan, a fun-loving keyboardist who played on records by such artists as the Rolling Stones, Lucinda Williams, Bruce Springsteen and his own bands -- the Small Faces and its successor, the Faces -- died Wednesday, according to a statement from his record label, Yep Roc Records. He was 69.
The cause of death was complications from a stroke, according to Yep Roc.
Kenney Jones, the Faces' drummer who later joined the Who, expressed his sadness in the statement.
"I am completely devastated by this shocking news and I know this goes for Ronnie (Wood) and Rod (Stewart) also."
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's resume was varied and eclectic, his soulful and often joyous organ fills heard on such albums as the Stones' "Some Girls," Lucinda Williams' "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" and John Mayer's "Battle Studies." A rousing live performer, he played with Bob Dylan and Springsteen and was scheduled to tour with Nick Lowe this winter.
NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 20:  Ian McLagan performs at Grimey's Americanarama on September 20, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Americana Music)
His death comes on the heels of that of another Stones sideman, saxophone player Bobby Keys, who died Tuesday.
McLagan established his abilities while touring with the Small Faces and the Faces. The latter band was particularly known for its good-time habits, like demolishing hotel rooms in classic rock 'n' roll fashion.
"You couldn't go from one town to another and not walk into the identical room in every town," he explained to CNN in a 2004 interview. "So we hurt them."
The Small Faces were heroes of Britain's youth and had a great deal of success there, though just one of their songs, 1967's "Itchycoo Park," cracked the Top 10 in the United States. When lead singer Steve Marriott left the band in 1969, the height-challenged group reformed around the much taller Rod Stewart and Ron Wood and dropped the "Small" from its name.
The Faces' hits included "Stay with Me" and "Cindy Incidentally."
McLagan, known as "Mac," was born in Hounslow, Middlesex, England, in 1945. He joined the Small Faces in 1965 and the band had a four-year run of hits, including "Sha La La La Lee," "All or Nothing" and "Afterglow of Your Love," the latter from their UK No. 1 album, "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake."
The post-Marriott Faces were known for such albums as "A Nod Is as Good as a Wink to a Blind Horse" and "Ooh La La," but it was their marathon live performances that really made their reputation -- sometimes unfairly.
"We had the reputation of big drinkers, but we paced ourselves," McLagan told CNN. "We all knew our limits. ... I'm now fighting this reputation of being sloppy, but listen (to the music)."
The band tried to juggle group dynamics with Stewart's soaring solo career, but the writing was on the wall when the singer left in 1975. Wood joined the Stones and McLagan became an in-demand session musician.
McLagan recorded a handful of albums on his own, including "Troublemaker" (1979), "Bump in the Night" (1980) and "United States" (2014), and in recent years led the Bump Band from his adopted hometown of Austin, Texas. When he wasn't in Austin he was on the road, a place where he was always happy.
Describing the travels of the Small Faces in the '60s -- when touring was pretty much a do-it-yourself affair -- he couldn't help but wax fondly.
"A favorite memory keeps coming back: it's just us in the car, going to gigs," he told the Los Angeles Beat in 2012. "We used to smoke, listen to music, laugh and giggle, and had the best time! We'd get to the gig and we'd play music, then we'd leave the gig and we'd listen to music. Then we'd go back to the hotel and we'd play music, then we'd listen to music. It's all we did, and it was fabulous! You can't have a better life."