Country Music Legend Warner Mack Has Died
When you write a song at the age of 13 that becomes a country standard and a hit in three separate decades, you know you were born to make country music. Warner Mack was born Warner McPherson on April 5th, 1935 in Nashville, Tennessee, and was a natural, whether it came to writing or performing in the country realm, ultimately becoming one of country’s most successful contributors in the 1960’s. But a car accident sidelined him for many years, making his legacy often overlooked.
It was after a teenage love affair that he wrote the song “Is It Wrong (For Loving You).” Warner Mack was already involved in music from an early age. His father was a Presbyterian minister, and Warner regularly sang with dad, mom, and his siblings as they traveled throughout the South to spread the Gospel. As Warner grew older, he found a particular fondness for country music, specifically the songs of Hank Williams and Eddie Arnold.
The family moved to Jackson, Tennessee when Warner was seven, and to Vicksburg, Mississippi when he was nine, which is where he was raised, though the family would regularly return to Nashville, which during the time of Warner Mack’s young adult life, became the epicenter of country music. It was in Vicksburg, though, where he got his start in music as a young DJ, and then on to Shreveport where he began to perform on The Louisiana Hayride, and eventually onto Missouri and the Ozark Jubilee.
In 1957, Warner Mack launched his recording career, taking that song he’d stashed from his youth “Is It Wrong (For Loving You),” and making it a #9 hit in country for Decca Records. But trying his hand at more rockabilly-oriented material saw his fortune eventually stall out. Aside from one minor hit “Roc-A-Chicka,” Warner Mack struggled from the late 50’s to the early 60’s.
Re-signing to Decca in the mid 60’s as a full blown country artist is where Warner’s career found its footing. “The Bridge Washed Out” written by Slim Williamson and others became a #1 hit for Mack in 1965, and a signature song for him. He would put together ten Top 10 hits in the second half of the 60’s decade, including “Talkin’ To The Wall” that he co-wrote with Bill Montague. Meanwhile, Webb Pierce recorded his own version of “Is It Wrong (For Loving You)” and had a hit with it, as would Sonny James, who took it to #1 in 1974.
Loretta Lynn, Bobby Bare, Wanda Jackson, and others would also record “Is It Wrong,” while other songs written by Warner were recorded by the likes of Bill Anderson, Kitty Wells, and Jean Shepard. Heading into the 70’s, Warner Mack was cementing a legacy career when a car accident severely changed the trajectory of his life. Ailing and unable to function regularly—let alone tour—his production trailed off, and he was eventually dropped by Decca in 1974.
Warner Mack required 13 surgeries over many years before he was able to get his life fully back on track, and by the time it was, country music had moved on from artists like him. But Warner still figured out ways to be involved in the music. His songwriting catalog kept him afloat through the hard times. He started his own record label called Pageboy, and a publishing company called Bridgewood. He also opened a storefront in Nashville called Warner Mack’s Country Store.
Meanwhile that song he wrote as a heartsick teen at the age of 13 kept finding new life with performers, as did other Warner Mack songs. Even into the 90’s, Ricky Van Shelton had a Top 15 hit with Mack’s “After The Lights Go Out.” In 2010 when Marty Stuart recorded “Bridge Washed Out” for his album Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions, it was a nod to Mack.
Warner Mack died in Nashville on March 1st at the age of 86, 73 years after writing a hit song that will outlive us all.
King Honky Of Crackershire (Repent!)
March 5, 2022 @ 9:37 am
I agree with this website on very little,…like, virtually nothing; but I’ve always appreciated knowing there’s a place where performers like Warner Mack get acknowledged. I’ve always enjoyed his music, but hadn’t even contemplated whether or not he was still alive all these years. We tend to forget about the lesser known performers once their careers drop off and time moves on. “Sittin’ In An All Night Cafe” is probably my favorite of his.
March 5, 2022 @ 10:11 am
“I agree with this website on very little,…like, virtually nothing; …”
C’mon Honky, stop.
You like this site a lot more than you let on.
“but I’ve always appreciated knowing there’s a place where performers like Warner Mack get acknowledged.”
E X A C T L Y.
Don’t show up to bust Trigger’s a** just for the sake of busting Trigger’s a**
King Honky Of Crackershire (Repent!)
March 5, 2022 @ 10:43 am
I showed up because it’s an article about Warner Mack. While I’m glad there’s someone who will write about Warner and performers like him, I felt the need to clarify that I won’t be tongue-bathing Trigger’s prostate gland anytime soon, or ever, for that matter, as many of my fellow readers do.
I would also add that disagreement should not be construed as criticism, although criticism can come as the result of disagreement.
Enough about me, though. Isn’t it weird and sad how, when it comes to C(c)ountry Music, we live in a post-post modern world? The music died long before the performers did, and as a result, we forgot that many of the performers were still living…until they died.
March 5, 2022 @ 11:20 am
“Isn’t it weird and sad how, when it comes to C(c)ountry Music, we live in a post-post modern world? The music died …”
Country music & bluegrass (NOTHING more country than bluegrass, by the way) will NEVER die.
As long as the Earth is populated by people, there will always be country music, (music, period).
Whether, Indian Spiritual, Country, Gullah Spiritual, Inuit, Gospel, Afrikkans, Latino, Salsa, etc.
As long as there are people & 2 rocks to knock together, there will be Rock.
As long as there are sticks lying about, someone will pick one up, and start tapping out a beat.
If we are talking solely about commercial country music, and the worlwide influences that incorporated over the last few centuries, then this might be a fun time to remind Nashville, that they are just a tiny blip on the radar.
You want country music? Authentic?
Start by taking in a Conrad Fisher show.
Hop in the car. Talk with the locals, in whatever state you travel to. Had a great time the last 2 years, listening to live music. It is Everywhere.
March 8, 2022 @ 5:13 pm
I totally agree with you. It bothers me when Big News Media overlooks Country Music Entertainers. The Grammys included.
When Kitty Wells aka the Queen of Country Music died,I recorded the ABC,CBS,and NBC Nightly Evening News. Not one mention was made of this reigning Queen of Country who paved the way for female “girl singers” of Country Music in the 1940s,50s,60s,70s,and performed with her husband Johnny Wright and Toured til they retired in about early 21st Century.
They were also responsible for bringing Eddie Stubb’s to Nashville and 5 days later he got hired on at WSM 650am Radio and the Grand Ole Opry soon after that. Eddie said it was a God thing.
March 5, 2022 @ 2:35 pm
Can always count on Mr. Morality to make it about him–and to insert some disgusting vulgarity that has nothing whatsoever to do with the subject at hand.
18 Dales and a dozen comments
March 6, 2022 @ 6:20 am
There are no bigger fans of King Honk out there than me but I think the ole T-Rigger does a real good job and is a good fella in general like that time I almost got into it down in Lousiana with BeauSoleils entire band back in 89 or so. Just as I pulled out my pistol Trigg was the one that stepped in and said Dale put that away you dont need to do that and cooler heads prevailed I think it’s safe to say if we didn’t have Trigg I know we’d be flounderin around like a ship at sea lost in the rain of a hurricane or a feather in the wind
King Honky Of Crackershire
March 6, 2022 @ 5:45 pm
I agree with you that Trig does a good job; I haven’t said otherwise. All I said is that he’s wrong about almost everything. My original comment was me saying although he’s wrong about everything, I’m glad this website exists. Di and others are the ones who misunderstood what I said and made half this comment section about me.
March 5, 2022 @ 1:08 pm
Seemed like a compliment to me.
March 5, 2022 @ 1:56 pm
“… but I’ve always appreciated knowing there’s a place where performers like Warner Mack get acknowledged.”
March 5, 2022 @ 10:24 am
This site is a gift to us all. Thanks for remembering Warner and his part in the foundation of country music. Great Songs live on,
January 11, 2023 @ 11:45 am
Warner and I were very good friends when we lived in Hendersonville. Most did not kniw this about him, but he was a gentlemen from the word go, and had a sincere relationship with God.
March 5, 2022 @ 10:31 am
I was listening to The Bridge Washed Out. It struck me how much the backing players sound like The Buckaroos back in the day. The way that lead guitar sounds, it’s very reminiscent of Don Rich’s style.I have little doubt it’s a telecaster and a fender amp. Curious who the players were. The chorus also sounds like something Buck would write. Goes without saying I suppose, that there is definite Bakersfield influence with this. Interestingly, George Jones recorded a very similar version of this song. Not surprised Marty did a version. I’ve seen him talk about this song in glowing terms. It’s going in my list as an all -time classic.
March 5, 2022 @ 1:06 pm
Kevin Smith thanks for mentioning my Daddy’s cousin Don Rich. Don’s father and my Dad’s mother were brother and sister. As a kid we would wrestle for the spot on the floor closest to the tv just to see Don when he was on HeeHaw with Buck and the rest of The Buckaroos. He was an unforgettable talent. Thanks again!
March 5, 2022 @ 1:58 pm
I always tried to keep track of Warner, but didn’t know how he was doing recently.
He used ti come to KRNT Theater, in Des Moines , in the 60’s. Smokey Smith, brought all my radio heroes to us back then. The “bridge washed out” was my favorite.
Thanks Trigger. RIP Warner.
March 6, 2022 @ 12:14 am
Haven’t thought about Warner Mack in decades, and I forgot about all the classic songs he wrote. As I was reading, Lynn Anderson’s recording of “Talkin’ To The Wall” began playing in my mind. Nice memory.
Tracey K. Houston
April 9, 2022 @ 9:03 am
Just looked up Lynn Anderson’s version of Talkin’ to the Wall. Never heard it by her before. First heard it by Loretta Lynn, then by Warner Mack. Loretta’s version inspired me to include it on my Salute to Loretta Lynn album from 2007. Listening to Lynn’s version now! Thank you!
March 8, 2022 @ 5:18 pm
Marty Stuart a revive of Bridge Washed Out by Warner Mack
It was great.
March 12, 2022 @ 6:00 am
R.I.P , The legend Warner Mack .
Tracey K. Houston
April 9, 2022 @ 9:24 am
THANK YOU for this article on Warner Mack! He was a dear friend and I worked with him along with his cousin/caregiver Florine Harts. Even though we released the Press Release to country radio and media outlets, there was barely a mention of his passing in the media.
However, I do want to make one correction to his birthdate. His birthday was actually Apr 5, 1935, although various media throughout the years listed it as Apr 2nd. I saw Warner’s birth certificate so I know that’s a fact. 🙂 I discovered it was the incorrect date when I showed up at his place with a birthday cake on April 2nd one year and he told me it was April 5th. I told him we get to celebrate twice then! 🙂
Warner was a very dear friend and I spent a lot of time with him and Florine, especially over the last 4 years, right up until the very end, holding his hand at his bedside as he was inching closer to leaving us in this earthly realm. A few years ago they asked me to create his website (warnermack.com), and I helped put together his latest album release (Better Than Ever) in 2020 on Mack Hart Records, and his 3 latest singles, two Christmas singles in 2021 (Dasher, With a Light Upon His Tail; Angel Tree), and a Gospel single in Jan 2022 — He Touched Me (He Can Touch You Too). Warner specially requested that gospel single to be released as his own personal testimony.
In late 2021 he asked me to release an album on him of a bunch of demos he recorded but never released. After much discussion we decided we would release a series of albums of unreleased demos, but I told him I would get to work on it after the Christmas and Gospel singles were released. Then suddenly his health took a serious turn for the worst over the last few months, so I was more concerned with spending time with him at that point. Eventually (hopefully this summer) I’ll start going through the unreleased songs to start putting together the first album.
R.I.P. dear Warner. He is greatly missed.
April 9, 2022 @ 9:45 am
Thanks for the clarification Tracey, I made that correction. And condolences to you and all friends of Warner Mack.
Tracey K. Houston
April 9, 2022 @ 6:55 pm
Thank you, Trigger. I sure do appreciate it!