Samuel “Mac” McLanahan
Mac in 1993 ~ Steve Ide photo

Mac in 1993 ~ Steve Ide photo

Mac’s Facebook Wall (I don’t know how public this is, so YMMV)

Read Mac’s obituary

In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in memory of Samuel “Mac” McLanahan III to support cancer research and patient care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, via

A memorial service and celebration was held at the Rose Garden Coffeehouse at the Congregational Church, 17 West St., Mansfield, Mass. on Wednesday, Dec. 10.

I will hold your head
And hold your hand
Until you reach that promised land
With promises that we will meet
Now I lay you down to sleep




April Verch: Mac’s other daughter

I was blessed with two of the most wonderful parents in the world.  I certainly did not need and was not looking for “Bonus Parents”.  But God knows better, and brought us together, and that’s exactly what I received in Mac & Rae Ann McLanahan.  They started out as “The Rose People” to me, and became two of my dearest and truest friends.  Just as there are no words to express our special and close relationship that developed over the years, there are no words to express the deep sadness and grief that I feel now that Mac has left us for heaven.  I am thankful that he’s at peace and not suffering.

Mac, Rae Anne and April

Mac, Rae Anne and April

It’s too soon to accurately describe all that I am thinking of and remembering about Mac…there is so much…but I sense him today in my heart.  I still hear his wise voice and when I close my eyes I feel his warm bear hug.  My love and prayers go out to his family, my bonus family, who has been so kind to me in all of this, and to his many friends and his community.  Mac was truly an angel on earth.  He touched and helped so very many of us in countless ways.  He will be extraordinarily missed and his amazing spirit will be carried forth by all of us who learned to be a better person through his example.  I will shine my light, play my songs, live my life, with my Bonus Dad in my heart forever.  I will always cherish and be there for Rae Ann, his children and grandchildren.  Mac used to tell me that as his Bonus Daughter I now got the same goodnight that he used to give his children when he tucked them in.  “Goodnight, I love you, see you in the morning.”  We said and emailed that back and forth so many times these last few years.  He meant the world to me.  I asked his daughter Allie in the hours before his passing to give him a message for me, and she graciously did and said that she’s sure he heard it.  “Goodnight, I love you, see you in heaven.”

— April Verch


Mac was a great friend and champion to his fellow musicians and helped run one of the most sublime grassroots folk venues we have played in our long career. He was witness to our creative development, and that of many others, encouraging us every time we saw him. His magnanimous personality and honesty touched us all and the affectionate way he called me “Aub” will always ring sweetly in my ears when I think about him. Mac is a person I feel very fortunate to have known and he will be sorely missed.

— Aubrey Atwater, friend and member of the group Atwater-Donnelly



Mac in his element. Photo by Jake Jacobson

Mac in his element. Photo by Jake Jacobson

Mac was all about community

I came to know Mac McLanahan due to my involvement with BACHA (Boston Area Coffeehouse Association). We’re a group of music fans who work to keep the folkie flame burning at a number of coffeehouses and house concert series from New Hampshire to Rhode Island. The executive board has been made up of those who were uber-involved and maybe a bit uber-obsessed with our roles to help promote acoustic and folk music in New England. It’s at those meetings that I got to know Mac.

We held meetings several times a year and would occasionally have parties and showcases. Mac was always positive and upbeat. The meetings would often include newbies who were “new” to the scene and he’d always be welcoming and respectful. The learning curve for getting up and running with a concert series is challenging and there’s a lot to absorb and assimilate into one’s own situation.

Mac was always there for advice. I learned very quickly that he was wise and I’d do well to learn all that I could from him. Mac was always there for me when I had questions about how to handle certain tricky situations that arose within our little coffeehouse world. He was also always quick to offer congratulations if he heard via the grapevine that we had an especially good show. I was honored when Mac invited me to be one of the judges for the Rose Garden Coffeehouse songwriting contest. It was like earning a coffeehouse stripe on my denim jacket. I was so impressed by the way that he and his volunteers carefully prepared the judges’ packets and by their hospitality that evening. I was thrilled to receive a Rose Garden t-shirt as a special gift and felt an even keener connection to our folk community due to my participation in this event.

And that’s what Mac was all about: community. Mac was an integral part of our BACHA family by not only serving on our board but also by being our liaison with our local folk radio station, WUMB. We spent some very special times preparing for our shows at the Boston Folk Festival.

Mac will be missed by many. I will remain forever thankful for having known him. I’d like to think that he’s playing in some awesome jam band and having a grand ole time right about now. Cheers to a life well lived and well played!

— Kathy Sands-Boehmer, Me & Thee Coffeehouse, Marblehead, Mass.


Mac and Rae Ann were known for their kick-ass New Year’s Day parties….here’s a sampling:

Painting of Mac McLanahan ~ by Margo Lemieux

Painting of Mac McLanahan ~ by Margo Lemieux

Ode to Mac

He was a man of many talents, of that it’s safe to say
With his Martin and his Dobro, he loved to sing and play
From Johnny Cash to Lightfoot he knew a thousand songs
And penned some real ‘keepers’ with which we sang along
He threw a damn good party on every New Year’s Day
With friends and neighbors gathered round as instruments did play
And voices filled the living room with songs of every kind
And laughter rang and troubles seemed so very far from mind
He always had a way with words, his grammar was perfection
And if yours wasn’t up to snuff, he’d utter a correction
He also had an artists’ eye with camera in hand
The house is filled with photographs from all across the land
Of loved ones and of singers caught in frozen time
There’s Sarah ‘neath the red tree; there’s Lightfoot, Cash and Prine
His greatest talent, though, by far was as father and as friend
He had three wives and don’t you know they loved him to the end
There’s a picture of him with all three, (though one was airbrushed in)
And Allie, Emmie, Mark and Sarah are here because of him
Mac was the kind of father who always stayed in touch
His children think the world of him and clearly love him much
He fathered four, but he had more, since some adopted him
Just ask Chad and April, they’ll surely fill you in
About that heart that was so large there always seemed to be
A bit more room for just one more in the extended family
With Rae Ann, he made Rose Garden a wonderful place to be
For listeners and musicians who felt so safe and free
To get up on that stage and sing and make such harmony
So many friends who cherish Mac will keep his memory
Now that he’s gone it just feels wrong – we’ll miss him mightily.
–John Bean, Dec. 6, 2014



Here is a photo of Mac c. 1964 with the Colony Singers in Baltimore. ~ Bill Reese photo

Here is a photo of Mac c. 1964 with the Colony Singers in Baltimore. ~ Bill Reese photo

My good friend and fellow writer/ folk musician Mac McLanahan passed away, beaten by the infamous prostate demon..he fought the battle well, courageously, but in the end, the final moment, I have lost one of my best friends ever- a devoted Lightfoot fan who shared many an evening with us at those shows. How would I know the poem I wrote on the day of his passing, was for him. I did not know he was gone. I am there for you sweet Rae Ann, always……. “DJ”

“The Sun Still Shines”

The sun still shines-
The waters still flow-
The sky reigns blue, but not in sadness-
The snow and rain still cleanses-
It hides the seasons that brings the mud and dark dreary days-
The short days of winter-
What once was, is not-
You cannot go back-

You are not the same as you were when you were born-
Cells divide and renew-
The body changes completely every day-
As if there was no yesterday-
Today is new and tomorrow will be new-
Your heart still beats the same-
It is only your memories and your mind that fools you-
A “virtual” Kodak moment-

Move on-
The sun still shines-
The waters still flow-
The sky reigns blue, but not in sadness- but in beauty-
Your heart still beats the same-
Until it no longer can-
That’s when the white light appears and takes over-
What once was, is not-
And can never be again-

— Jack Polidoro, JPP December 2014 (For Mac)

Mac and Rae join Jonathan Edwards and the songwriting finalists last May at the Rose Garden:

Mac McLanahan:  A Tribute

I came up in the Greater Boston coffeehouse scene.  In New England, as they say, there’s a church on every corner, and our corner of the country definitely did its part in furthering the big folk scare of the 1960’s.  Combine a hunger for that simple, no-frills style of music with a preponderance of church basements, and you have the best crop of coffeehouses the world has ever grown.

Jake in 1993

Jake in 1993

One of the best of those was and is the Rose Garden Coffeehouse, in the basement (and often the sanctuary) of The Congregational Church in Mansfield, MA, a mid-19th-Century, white-steepled, New England classic.  I first performed there at 12 years of age, as a special guest in my dad’s bluegrass band, Northern Lights.  That was the night I met Samuel “Mac” McLanahan, the keeper of the keys at the Rose Garden.  Mac was a rock-solid cornerstone of that coffeehouse scene, the scene which nourished so many of us performers as we tried our strength and gradually built our confidence.

Mac was big, his moustache was bigger, and his heart was biggest.  He was always for you, he was your fan, even if you were a teenager and he was your dad’s age.  He believed in music and he believed in musicians, and he loved being the guy behind the scenes who made the music happen.  Because performers actually have very little to do with making music happen — we bring it to life on stage, yes, but the monumental journey from an empty church to one full of people excited to hear songs is mostly undertaken by the promoter, who promotes the show relentlessly, sells tickets, arranges hospitality, coordinates volunteers, handles (and often, by necessity, babies) the artist, and just generally runs the show.  We are only the actors; the promoter is the director.  Except Mac never felt like a promoter or a director, just a friend who was ready to go to the ends of the earth to get you your green M&M’s so you could give your best performance.

You know how people are born to do things?  Mac was born to run a coffeehouse, one of the greats, and to bring music into the lives of those around him.  He was a total sweetheart of a guy, to know him was to love and be loved by him, and he made the world, especially the music world, a better place.  I speak for all singers and songwriters who have ever shaken his hand when I say goodbye, my dear friend, and we will miss you greatly, and thank you for your kindness, your gentleness, your largeness of heart.  You were the best.

— Jake Armerding

No one can fill Mac's shoes.

No one can fill Mac’s shoes.

I don’t have enough words to express my feelings after the loss yesterday of my friend Mac McLanahan, 74, on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. As a co-founder and artistic director of the Rose Garden Coffeehouse in Mansfield, Mass., he helped hundreds of musicians find their careers. He loved it when a musician had found their footing and went from playing a downstairs show at the church to filling the pews upstairs in later years. He set the standard for folk coffeehouses in the region. His goal was to have a coffeehouse accessible to the locals, bringing in lesser-known talent and keeping the prices reasonable, truly putting the word “folk” into the music. He was a second father to my two children, who grew up hauling chairs, helping in the RG kitchen and admiring the man who, with a smile always, guided clueless volunteers and yet respected their every word. He was an encouraging and supportive friend, a confidante, a mentor, a man of unspeakable grace and dignity, and he will be sorely missed. My heart goes out to Rae Anne and the rest of his family, coming in from all over the world. Today, Mac, the show will be upstairs.

–Steve Ide, Rose Garden volunteer


Yesterday, I truly feel like I lost a dear family member. Mac, I will always be your “Rocky” and forever be your Vanna White. Every Rose Garden Coffeehouse show for so many years, I would bring up the raffle basket. And I never needed to be nervous, even though I was standing up in front of a lot of people, because you always helped me. I could not have had a better childhood, growing up at the Rose Garden Coffeehouse. I love and miss you so very much and I feel blessed to have known you.

— Rachel Ide, Rose Garden Volunteer