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Mac – “The Riddle of the Rhyme”

By Tommy Roeck Pics by Sharon Brown

I caught up with Laura McChristian Riddle of “Ms. Mac and the Groovetones” performing their acoustic
show at The Big Chill in Hot Springs recently, and man they were laying it down. Most groups lighten up their
attack on the unplugged gigs, but these seasoned veterans hold nothing back. Performing note perfect versions
of Heart Classics such as “Barracuda” and Fleetwood Mac covers of “Dreams” and “Landslide” to name a
few. Mixed into their sets are some of the greatest classic rock and R&B songs of all time and Ms. Mac pours
her heart and soul into every note vocally while thumping her way into the audiences hearts on her 5-string
bass. With an array of Bic lighters and waving cell phones, they set the audience ablaze with energy and loud
vocal orchestrations of cheers, people dancing, and singing along. The party was right here, right now!
Ever since Laura first heard Kiss’ “Detroit Rock City” she was smitten with music. Not worrying about
gender differences or women’s rights, she only wanted to rock. Then with the strong influences of “The
Runaways”, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart and Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, she knew that she had to
follow her dreams to be the woman of music that she envisioned for herself. She has her Masters degree in
music from the university of northern Colorado, and is a published writer from “Kearney Street Books” in
Bellingham, Washington. Teaching is her regular day gig, while still attending school, she will have her P.H.D.
in music from Northcentral University very soon. This is hard evidence of her musical prowess.
Being Ms. Mac is her pseudo identity, and she loves to play it. Sometimes in her classes she finds it amusing
to pull up her band’s myspace page and show it to her students at Cossatot Community College of the
University of Arkansas. When they ask who’s that woman? And she says: “it’s me” They are very surprised!
Stodgy old professors aren’t supposed to play in a rock and roll band! She enjoys having a regular career
which is closely related to what she does on stage. Every day she has a captive audience and talks about music.
From Bach to Bon Jovi, explaining to students that musicians in the past are no different than they are now.
In her own words Laura stated:” Being the only woman in the band isn’t anything new to me. During three
of the five years I spent at Henderson State University as a music education major, I was the only girl in the
Jazz Ensemble, playing bass, an unusual role for a girl in the ‘80s and‘90s.
Which I never minded at all, and still don’t, especially when I get to play with some of the most talented guys
in town. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be performing somehow, somewhere. I longed to be
like Joan Jett, the Wilson sisters or guitarist Lita Ford. A strong, talented woman who could rock and roll in a
man’s world and still be sexy and feminine without sacrificing her integrity. I feel like I’m doing that now,
and without my husband, my band mates, and the people who have supported us over the years, I’d never be
able to pull that off. Our goal as a band is to entertain, and we always give 100% percent when we perform,
whether we’re playing in local clubs or major festivals, opening for national acts or doing covers or originals,
all the while giving it our own personal signature”.
Working in the band for the last 10 years all over the natural state and the Arklatexahoma area, with
Laura’s ability to belt out everything from sweet tender ballads to teeth-rattling hair metal and pounding out
a bass line as well as anyone who has come before, the Groovetones have developed a large, steady following,
and attained a fabulous reputation for delivering energetic, quality shows, and unforgettable performances.
Laura also plays keyboards, and saxophone competently, and shares the musical direction of the group with
husband Don. If the performance requires a little something extra, you can bet they will devise a way to
incorporate it into the show.
Laura’s partner in crime is Don Riddle, who is Ms. Mac’s biggest fan. Together they have taken their
garage band dreams to the upscale and raised children, have grandchildren, and been inspirations to many
aspiring players in the area. Don also has a staging and lighting company, along with a recording studio, and is
a very savvy manager and solid provider and performer. He said: ”We like to have fun, and live life to the
fullest!” And they have very full and rich lives together as these two soul mates are a credit to the talent pool in
our music scene.
Don is an ACM award-winner, and Grammy-nominated artist. He created the true vision for the
Groovetones, and is the driving force behind it’s continued success. Versatility could easily be his middle
name, playing acoustic and electric guitar and mastering the mixing board. His ability to charm the audience
with his blue-eyed soul is captivating, and his experience in the industry is impressive, as he has performed
with Mel McDaniel and most prominently, Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band.
Don started the Groovetones with the idea to form a classic rock band in an area dominated by country
music. So far that idea has worked very well, and now Ms. Mac and the Groovetones are one of the top
regional acts in the area playing 75 to 100 shows a year, in venues all the way from Austin to Memphis. Laura
was quoted as saying:” Don is the heart of this band, he claims to be just the guy who owns the equipment, but
we would never be where and what we are without his strong musicianship and business sense, he just makes it
all happen!”.
On lead guitar in the band is Ted Stone, formerly of Deacon Dark, a very smooth and accurate part of this
dynamic team, as is Tony “Big Bang” Hargrove on drums, and Allan Mc Eneaney who worked with Paul
Rodgers, also playing high energy guitar, keys, and bass at most of the groups shows, which are rich, dynamic
orchestrations of the rock and roll arts. Make sure to check out their compact Disc “Saturday night live at
Quincey’s” which catches them live in the act and was featured in “Her” magazine a few years back.
The band performs in various local venues such as Fat Jack’s, Quincey’s, , and Shooter’s. Other venues
include Abendigo’s Restaurant, in Oklahoma, both Duck Horn Tavern locations in Central Texas, the
Hangin’ Judge Saloon in Fort Smith, The Big Chill and Dockers in Hot Springs, and the prestigious Peabody
Hotel in Little Rock. They are a featured artist at several festivals including StarDaze, Lum & Abner Days,
Alleyfest, and the Eldorado Music Fest.
They have opened for Shenandoah, the Little River Band, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, and have performed
with many other national and regional acts. They also perform for private functions of any kind, and have
supported organizations such as Relay for Life, CASA, and Toys for Tots. They have performed for the
Texarkana Regional Arts & Humanities Council at Rockin‟ The Art Spark, the 2009 Four States Fair, and the
inaugural Stateline Music Festival. Ms. Mac and the Groovetones continue to be Arklatexahoma.’s only
rhythm & groove band.
With talent, knowledge, dedication, sheer determination, and the love of music these Merlins of groove have
definitely carved out a solid niche for themselves in the Southern rock circuit and have earned their place on
the “A” band list in many regions. If you get a chance to catch a show or hire these guys, do it without
question? For they are great entertainers who will leave you wanting more…… T.R.
You can find them on Facebook or Myspace