Ian McLagan Remembered at Austin Music Awards

Charlie Sexton and Little Steven perform at the 2015 Austin Music Awards
Photo By Lynne Margolis

Charlie Sexton and Little Steven perform at the 2015 Austin Music Awards

There were lots of winners at the 33rd annual Austin Music Awards on Wednesday night. But it was a loss that resonated most deeply during the ceremony.

Ian McLagan, the former Small Faces and Faces keyboardist and an adopted Texan who died on Dec. 3 at the age of 69, was celebrated with an hour-long tribute that closed the event, with a few words and plenty of music from an all-star group of musicians -- including Steven Van Zandt, Patty Griffin and Alejandro Escovedo -- whose affection for McLagan was palpable throughout their performances.

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McLagan was, in fact, already a winner when the tribute began; he'd been named best keyboardist in the Austin Chronicle's music poll; it was accepted by his son Lee McLagan, who'd flown over from England and received a standing ovation from the crowd. "My dad would be thrilled to be there," the younger McLagan -- whose South By Southwest badge identified his home as Manor, Texas, where his father resided -- said as he cradled the plaque. "He loved this place with all his heart. I hope he gave you a good time, 'cause you gave him a home.

Photo By Lynne Margolis
Charlie Sexton & Little Steven perform at the 2015 Austin Music Awards

Afterwards McLagan told Billboard the experience was "overwhelming, if I'm honest. Really overwhelming."

The same could be said of the show-ending tribute, which began with clips from a documentary about McLagen that fillmaker Wes Orshoski ("Lemmy") was in the midst of making at the time of the keyboardist's death and plans to finish. Members of McLagen's Bump Band and the Charlie Sexton-led house band then joined forces for "Sha La La" and "Glad And Sorry" before Austin singer Tameca Jones raised the roof in delivering Rod Stewart's arrangement of the Temptations' "(I Know) I'm Losing You."  Video messages from McLagen's Faces bandmate Ron Wood and onetime employer Bonnie Raitt were shown, and Escovedo joined the group to duet with Sexton on the Kinks' "I'm Not Like Anybody Else" while Griffin stepped in for the gentler "Never Say Never."

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Van Zandt then joined the fray, with Jones returning, for a roaring take of the Small Faces' "Tin Soldier" and a room-shaking rendition of the Faces' "Stay With Me." An extended "Ooh La La" finale gave McLagen -- who was the subject of an SXSW panel discussion earlier in the day  -- an emotional but feel-good send-off. "It felt like Mac should be there," Griffin said afterwards. "He was so loved here. It's hard to say goodbye."

While the McLagen tribute largely took over the night, the four-hour ceremony featured other notable performances, including a three-song set by Billy Joe Shaver and A Return to Austin High segment in which Gary Clark Jr. and Eve Monsees rocked through a medley of "Travis County" and "Sing For You" after performances by fellow alumni Susanna Choffel, Shakey Graves, rapper Phranchyze and saxophonist Elias Haslanger. Two other segments featured Austin "divas" such as Jones, Nina Diaz, Sunny Sweeney and others covering songs by Texas songwriters including Kris Kristofferson, Lucinda Williams, David Garza, Blaze Foley and others.

One of the "divas," Mexican-American singer-songwriter Gina Chavez, was the night's big winner, taking home four plaques -- including musican of the year, album of the Year for up.rooted, song of the year for "Siete D" and Latin artist of the year. Riders Against the Storm was named both band of the year and hip-hop/rap group of the year, while Patricia Vonne won best female vocals and best miscellaneous instrument (castenets). Eliza Gikyson took home best songwriter and best folk artist honors, and Residual Kid, recently signed to Sire Records, were named best band Under 18.

A full list of winners can be found at