Billy Mack was a blind pianist from Greensboro, NC who cut some really fine deep soul 45s under his own name as well as a killer under the name Willy McDougal, which I guess was his real name. Sorting out the order and dating of his early 45s from the Carolinas 45s is pretty difficult but my guess is that his first 45 was the incredible I Can’t Wait. This stop go ballad is one of the most sought after deep 45s I know and no wonder. Billy’s singing is simply sensational, soaring into falsetto as he howls out his passion about his lady and the organ playing here (Billy himself?) is one of many highlights of this outstandingly intense number. Check out the beautifully arranged horns as well. The faster funky flip has made a few waves on the dance scene and is – to be truthful – a fine piece of R & B.
The superb bluesy ballad I Couldn’t Sleep A Wink Last Night on which he wails out his pain and anguish like a man possessed may have been his second release. The doomy horns and female chorus add to the air of desperation which hangs over the song. Although this number is about 4 minutes long I can't believe it was recorded after 1964 - the feel is far earlier than Mack's major label 45s.
By the mid 60s Billy was in New York but the change of location didn’t alter his music. One Heartache Too Many is another example of his “take no prisoners” style of singing and the higher production values in the Big Apple make this another 45 to drool over. My Baby’s Gone Away Forever completes a quartet of some of the most intense singing you’ll ever hear. This is another blue tinged slowie of considerable merit.
If talent was all it took Billy Mack would have been a superstar but he seems to be known only to die hard fans. I hope that as a result of this page his vocal abilities will be more widely appreciated.
UPDATE ~ I'm delighted to say that members of Billy's family have been in touch. They were very pleased to hear his voice again and of course I have sent them a CD of his recordings. Sandy McDougal provided the lovely vintage photo of him - I'm very grateful for this.
I can't wait / Don't turn away ~ KINARD 2318 (early 60s) (as WILLY McDOUGAL)
I couldn't sleep a wink last night / I am a son of a lover ~ TINA 501 (early 60s)
I can't sleep / Son of a lover ~ MISS BETTY 34 (early 60s)
One heartache too many / Love me now (no not later) ~ MGM 13229 (1964)
My baby's gone away for ever / Too much ~ PHILIPS 40301 (1965)
Note - Despite their slightly different titles the Tina and Miss Betty 45s are identical musically.
Thanks to Jason Perlmutter (see Links) for info.