Mac Arnold

An older man in a black cowboy hat holding a homemade guitar.

Mac Arnold. Image from South Carolina Living.

(1942 -) Mac Arnold was born in Ware Place, South Carolina, and grew up on a family farm in Pelzer, South Carolina. As a child, his father refused to allow him to buy a guitar, so he and his brother Leroy fashioned a guitar from a steel gas can, broomsticks, wood, nails, and screen wire. The gas can guitar became Arnold's signature instrument, and over the years, he has given lessons on how to make these guitars.

Early in his musical career,  Arnold worked with a young James Brown in a band called J. Floyd & the Shamrocks before moving to Chicago in 1965 to work with A.C. Reed and, a year later, Muddy Waters. His music continued to flourish, and in 1967 Arnold formed the Soul Invaders, which provided backup music for musicians such as B.B. King, The Temptations, Otis Redding, John Lee Hooker, and Little Milton. In the 70s, Arnold moved to California, where he worked as part of the set band for Soul Train and Sanford and Son. He also worked with Bill Withers during this time before moving back to South Carolina in the 1980s. 

In 2013, Arnold opened his own restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina, where he hosted The Cornbread and Collard Greens Blues Festival. In 2017 he decided to close his restaurant to focus on his music. Today, Mac Arnold performs at various venues throughout the Southeast and Midwest with his band Mac Arnold & Plate Full O' Blues.