KENNEBUNK, Maine - Less than 24 hours after performing his signature instrumental, "Orange Blossom Special," in front of a hometown audience, Allan "Mac" McHale died of heart failure at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor on Nov. 11, 2012.
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He had lived 80 years, most of them spent doing what he loved.
Born in Bangor on May 11, 1932, Mac, a graduate of Bangor High School and a mechanic in the Air National Guard reserves, was a salesman for Carnation Foods in northern Maine until 1960, when he landed an advertising sales job with 3M, where he excelled for over 25 years until his retirement in 1988. By that time, he had fully immersed himself in a life of music, for which he will be remembered by the thousands who ever heard his recorded works or had the privilege to see him perform live.
Hooked by the sounds of country musicians Hal Lone Pine and Smiling Bill Waters playing over Bangor radio stations, Mac picked up the banjo in his teens and soon added guitar and mandolin. He toured northern New England with The Larkin Hill Singers from 1965 to 1968 and played mandolin and sang with The Nonesuch River Singers from 1969 to 1971. The last group he played with before moving to Kennebunk in 1978 was The White Mountain Bluegrass Band.
Along with Emery Hutchins and Paula McHugh, Mac formed Northeast Winds in 1978, playing traditional Irish music to large crowds as the opening act for the Clancy Brothers from Boston and New York to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. The band lasted for 18 years, overlapping with Mac's formation of The Old Time Radio Gang (1986-2005), a popular purveyor of the type of country music played on the radio in the 1930s and 40s; fiddler Smokey Valley was a bandmate for the entire 19-year run. Mac reconnected with Hutchins in 2003 for the duo Two Old Friends; the pair traveled throughout New England until this month, playing a 50-50 mix of Irish and American country music, peppered with jokes and stories.
Mac also played with The Radio Gang from 2006-2011 with Old Time Radio Gang veterans John and Sally Roc of Wells. His latest project was Taylors Grove, a bluegrass/gospel duo with Carolyn Hutton of Madbury, N.H., which lasted from 2009 until the night before he died.
Mac was a member of the Maine Country Music Association Hall of Fame and the International Bluegrass Music Museum's Pioneers of Bluegrass Music.
Mac leaves behind his brother, Timothy McHale of Lake Lucerne; daughter Christine Allyn McHale of Portland and son Allan Clinton McHale and two grandchildren of Portland. He was predeceased by his parents, Francis and Alice McHale, and his sister Mary Smith.
SERVICES: Memorial visiting hours will be held at Bibber Memorial Chapel, 67 Summer St., Kennebunk, on Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.
A memorial Mass will be celebrated on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Holy Spirit Parish, St. Martha's Church, 30 Portland Road, Kennebunk. Interment will be at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Bangor on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 11 a.m. with military honors.
Should friends desire, memorial donations may be made to: The Franciscan Monastary P.O. Box 980, Kennebunkport 04046.
Arrangements are in care of Bibber Memorial Chapel. Visit www.bibberfuneral.com.
Published in Union Leader on Nov. 15, 2012