Will McFarlane

Born: June 6, 1952 Coronado, CA

Lived in Florence, A

He went on the road performing with Bonnie Raitt for six years as a guitar player. He also worked with Jackson Browne, and toured Europe with the Pointer Sisters, as well as Candi Staton. He has appeared on "Saturday Night Live" and "The Midnight Special", has performed at Carnegie Hall and has played on several gold albums. He played many Los Angeles studio sessions prior to moving to Muscle Shoals, AL in 1980 to continue with studio session work. Will has released several contemporary Christian albums and produced other artists.

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame



Will McFarlane spent six years playing guitar with Bonnie Raitt, from 1974 to 1980. Born on a Navy base in California, McFarlane started voice lessons at age 6, adding piano a year later. Seeing the Beatles play the Ed Sullivan Show when he was 12 inspired McFarlane to take up guitar. He developed a taste for R&B in high school, focusing on Motown material while developing as a rhythm guitarist.

McFarlane attended college in Denver, but soon dropped out and had been playing gigs in bars and clubs across the country when Raitt found him in a club in Cambridge, Mass.

McFarlane learned how to listen as well as play while in Raitt's band. His musical education was a versatile one, encompassing straight blues, country blues, folk, country, rock 'n' roll, as well as singer-songwriter material. Raitt was sharing stages with living blues legends, and McFarlane soaked up as much as he could from them before and after the gigs.

McFarlane left Raitt to move to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, playing on records for Bobby Blue Bland, Little Milton, Etta James and Johnnie Taylor as part of the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.

He parted company amicably from Raitt in 1980, because he and his wife, Janet, wanted a change of lifestyle and didn't want to raise two kids in L.A.

Soon after relocating to Muscle Shoals, he had a spiritual awakening. His younger brother was murdered while McFarlane was still with Raitt, and he says he stayed high for three years afterward trying to deal with it.

He became a Christian, but continued to make his living playing secular music at Muscle Shoals Sound, as well as traveling in ministry. During this time his floundering marriage was restored, and he and Janet, now married 32 years, also travel together.

McFarlane has continued to work in secular and gospel music, both traditional and contemporary styles. He has added full-fledged minister to his list of occupations since coming to the Triangle area seven years ago, and has been one of the pastors at Grace Church in Chapel Hill. He has continued to work in Muscle Shoals, Nashville, and other places around the country and world, as well as doing many sessions and live performances in the Raleigh/Durham area. He was just recently inducted into the Musician's Hall of Fame in Nashville as a friend of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (The Swampers).

Source: Will McFarlane - Will McFarlane - BIO



This is a simple offering of songs Will wrote to sing with his friends and others of like faith. Will McFarlane is a gifted singer/songwriter and musician whose natural talents are complemented by his years of experience and love for his craft. Now a resident of Durham, NC, Will had been part of the Muscle Shoals music scene for the past 20+ years. However, his music and message reach far beyond the Shoals and have taken him across the U.S. and into other countries.

Will’s career as a well-known recording artist began in the early seventies when he joined Bonnie Raitt’s band as a guitarist and background vocalist. For six years he toured and recorded with the band on such projects as Bonnie’s Home Plate and Sweet Forgiveness LP’s. Sweet Forgiveness included a cover of the 60’s Del Shannon tune Runaway, and became Bonnie’s highest charting single to that date. Playing guitar with Bonnie’s band meant a heavy touring and performing schedule, and included such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall. Time not spent on the road was often spent in recording sessions on other projects, such as the Urban Cowboy Soundtrack, and John Boylan’s production of Cotton-eyed Joe (the flip side of Mickey Gilley’s hit single Stand By Me).

In 1979, five days of concerts recorded at Madison Square Gardens became a certified-gold, multiple-disk set called No Nukes. While recording this work, Will joined a host of other musicians onstage, including Jackson Browne, Jesse Colin Young, John Hall, Pheobe Snow, and Bonnie Raitt. That same year, Will toured as guitarist for the Pointer Sisters and played many other dates in the L.A. area.

In 1980, the pressures of a busy touring schedule and the fast pace of life LA-style prompted Will to make some major changes. The impact his lifestyle could have on his young family was of great concern to him, so he left California and moved to Muscle Shoals, AL. It didn’t take long for Will’s talents to find useful outlets, and he began working for Muscle Shoals producers Jimmy Johnson and Barry Beckett. Among the albums he helped record were projects for Levon Helm and Billy “Crash” Craddock. Commercial jingles included a McDonald’s radio ad with Will on vocals that was picked up by the franchise’s national advertising.

During this time, Will’s spiritual journey led him to write and record 5 contemporary Christian albums: Right From The Start, A Colony of Heaven, Only the Heart, and Hear the Voice Axe To The Root, and now For the Peoples. Will’s travels and testimony have allowed him to travel the U.S., Canada, and exotic locations like Hawaii, Jamaica and the Bahamas. Travels in Europe have included stays in France, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, England, Scotland and Sweden. Other Christian artists use Will’s talents frequently and he has recorded with Rick Cua, Lenny Le Blanc, Michelle Pillar, Cindy Richardson, Lloyd Thogmartin, Robin Pope, Second Chapter of Acts and Maranatha Praise 9.

Over the years, Will’s versatility has enabled him to work on such diverse projects as the first two Forrester Sisters albums (which, between them, produced four No. 1 hits) and Little Milton’s Strugglin’ Lady. Malaco Records’ involvement in Muscles Shoals music paved the way for Will to contribute to the works of such legendary jazz/blues greats as Bobby “Blue” Bland, Dorothy Moore, Denise LaSalle, Shirley Brown, and Latimore as well as Little Milton. When Jerry Wexler came back to town to produce Etta James’ The Right Time, Will had the great fortune to work alongside the master producer. In addition, he cut two tracks of live duets with Steve Winwood and Etta James as well as a single with Toby Keith.. He’s played in live shows with Chris Kristofferson, Lee Roy Parnell and Waylan Jennings.

Will McFarlane is at home with practically any musical style, whether he’s playing country with the Tammy Wynette or jamming with Buddy guy. His insight and understanding of the music he plays allows him to relate to audiences of all ages and interests. Sice moving to North Carolina , he’s gotten involved in the local scene as well as traveling and opening for other artists such as Delbert McClinton. He’ll be back in the studio soon cutting many of the songs that have layed dormant for the last few years. He summed it up by saying, “I’m just cleaning out the basement of these old songs, and looking forward to getting outside and playing again.”

Source: Will McFarlane | For the Peoples | CD Baby



Listen: Will McFarlane | CD Baby








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