Steve Mackey: Bassist of a Generation

In March, the West Virginia Daily News reported that Steve Mackey, a former student of Greenbrier East High School, had been nominated for “Bass Player of the Year” by the Academy of Country Music (ACM).

The ACM Awards are how the industry “honors the biggest names in country music”. Requirements for nomination in this category “include, but are not limited to a released single or album embodying the player’s performance, which reaches the Top 20 or better on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs, Top Country Albums by Billboard. Billboard or Mediabase Country Charts ”.

This year’s list of nominees included Mackey, Glenn Worf, Mark Hill, JT Cure and Tony Lucido. These five people are not only among “the biggest names in country music” but must also be included in any legitimate list of the 20 most talented artists in the world.

According to Jeff Bryant, Mackey’s extraordinary musical ability “became evident almost immediately.”

Bryant, now Greenbrier County Schools Superintendent, served as principal of the GEHS group during Mackey’s high school years.

“It became evident during Steve’s tenure in high school that he was destined for a great musical career,” said Bryant, shortly after the announcement of the ACM Awards nominations.

In early April, Mackey took the time to speak to the West Virginia Daily News by phone from his home in Nashville. During this conversation, Mackey praised Bryant as Bryant did him.

“He was the coolest… he was the coolest,” Mackey said. “I will always be indebted to him because he saw right away that there was nothing else I was going to do.”

After graduating from high school in 1984, Mackey graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Bryant’s alma mater.

“But I love Jeff,” Mackey said in April. “He was really important to me and is really important to me now.”

Since moving to Greenbrier East and then Berklee, Mackey has continued to perform with artists such as Dolly Parton, Tom Bukovac and Luke Combs. In doing so, he has established himself as one of the most versatile musicians in the industry. However, Mackey remains both humble and perpetually excited about the way he makes a living. When Mackey spoke to WVDN in April, he told us how playing with Peter Frampton in 2018 was the fulfillment of a childhood dream.

“The first album I ever bought with my own money, my parents drove me to Lewisburg… drove me to Fairlea, and I went to Hecks to buy ‘Frampton Comes Alive! Mackey said. “I was 10, and I’ll never forget to come home and put it on and hear it just when the needle fell on the record.”

As Mackey explained, Frampton needed a short-term bassist to join his band for a New Years show.

“So anyway, I get this phone call. And I thought, ‘there’s no way I can refuse this.’ But it wasn’t just cool in that regard. It was cool because it was one of the most musical concerts I have ever been to. He (Frampton) was a pleasure to be around. Also, all the other members of his group had been there for 10 or 15 years. They had all heard his stories, and I hadn’t heard any. So when they all rolled their eyes and got back to their bunks, I stayed up until two in the morning with him. And he was like, ‘Oh Steve, you didn’t hear that one!’

“He had the coolest stories… like the 60s rock stories in particular. He was essentially a rock star since the age of 15 when he was sort of discovered by Bill Wyman. So he grew up around the Stones and all these people, and he looked at them like we do, but they were just a little older. So he was right in there. And hearing stories about Bill Wyman calling his mother (from Frampton) asking permission to come and pick him up to take him to see Hendrix at a club in London, it was amazing.

“The Peter Frampton thing, which, literally, was a dream come true. And so does the good relationship I still have with him.

When the door closed on the 2021 ACM Awards, Tony Lucido was named “Bassist of the Year”.

On Saturday August 7, Mackey again took the time to speak with WVDN.

“He’s a really great friend of mine,” Mackey said of Lucido. “You know, all of those guys – there were more bassists that were on the list for nominations. Your name kind of gets thrown in a pile depending on who’s playing number one songs that year. Obviously some guys play more number one than others. But that’s what throws your name on the pile and then the board votes on the nominees. “

But Lucido is by no means Mackey’s only friend. Once again, Jeff Bryant offered his support and appreciation.

“Even though Steve Mackey – an amazing musician – didn’t win the ACM Award, we’re just as proud of him as ever,” Bryant told WVDN. “Steve is a major force in the country music family and a major player in the very exclusive world of studio musicians.”

Bryant went on to say, “Personally, I am honored to know Steve as a former student, music colleague, and most importantly, as a treasured friend.”

Although he himself was not shortlisted for the award, Mackey’s humility and enthusiasm remained unchanged, and the joy he expressed at the prospect of his friend being honored was unequivocal. .

“But Tony, man…” Mackey continued, unable to hide the happiness in his voice. “If you turn on the radio – with anyone on this list – if you turn on the radio, you’re going to hear them, and you’ll probably hear Tony the most.” So it’s really deserved for him.

Regardless of the 2021 ACM Awards, Steve Mackey is truly our “Bassist of the Year”. Despite the success, fame and bright lights of Music City, in his heart, Mackey will always be a Greenbrier child.

“It is an honor to be recognized for the accomplishments and milestones of your career,” said Mackey. “But that is nothing compared to the feeling of friends, family and people you don’t even know, sincerely wishing you good luck. Of course, this is my home. I grew up feeling this.

Author’s Note: I wrote a more detailed article on Steve Mackey for the May issue of The DayTripper. For this article, I’ve reused parts of the conversation I had with Steve in April (including Peter Frampton’s story). After talking with Steve today, I pretty much feel like after our first conversation four months ago. So, I can’t think of any better way to end this article than the way I ended this one …

As it appeared in the May 2021 edition of The DayTripper magazine: “What I promise you Steve Mackey doesn’t understand is that someday I’ll tell someone when I got to do a late-night rap with Steve Mackey. And when I do, I’ll tell someone about Steve Mackey the same way Steve Mackey used to tell me about Peter Frampton. And I’m pretty sure someone will feel like me… ”

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