14 hours ago •
During its heyday, the Aku Tiki Lounge in the Villager Hotel was Lincoln’s
premier singles bar, sometimes for people who weren’t necessarily single. Married couples, single Lincolnites, business
types in town for a weekend -- the lounge welcomed all kinds.
There were tropical drinks to match the Polynesian decor,
and, for a five-year stretch beginning in 1969, one band owned the little pie graph quadrant of a stage at the Aku Tiki. It
didn’t play Hawaiian music.
But The Mac Five would do just about anything else, former bass player Keith Heckman
said. And they sounded great too, as long as they stayed out of the way of Mac McCune and his trumpet.
“Mac” McCune died Thursday in Lincoln, just weeks after being diagnosed with colon cancer and about a month after
performing his final show, a First Friday jazz concert at First Lutheran Church. He was 79.
McCune and his wife, Peggy,
had moved to Branson, Mo., a few years ago, but came back to Lincoln frequently to see family and so that Mac could play at
church concerts or more intimate events.
Peggy McCune said her husband used to joke that “I used to play in nightclubs,
and now I’m mostly playing for funerals.”
He made that deep of a connection with so many people, she said.
When news of McCune’s death began to spread to local musicians, they started calling Roper and Sons to offer to play
at his service.
McCune is survived by his wife, two siblings, five children and 10 grandchildren. There will be a memorial
service Monday at 1 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, where he and Peggy McCune were members.
Though Mac McCune
served on the board for the Nebraska Council on Alcoholism, Peggy McCune said her husband enjoyed remembering the din in the
nightclub and the sound of ice tinkling in glasses, if not the taste of the drinks. McCune himself was sober for more than
"(The Aku Tiki) became the place to go," Mac McCune told the Journal Star in 1999. "It only seated 75
people, but there was usually 150 or so in there. It's hard to explain the whys of it. Everything just jelled together. Maybe
it was the music, the location and the atmosphere."
Fellow musicians give him more credit than that.
was just a joy to listen to,” said Dean Haist, a fellow Lincoln trumpeter who booked McCune’s dixieland shows
Even when he played blues numbers, you could tell he was happy to be playing them, Haist said. McCune
grew up in Kansas a fan of the big band sound of Louis Armstrong and Harry James -- especially James. "Man With a Horn" by
James was one of McCune's favorites to play.
“You could hear a lot of their playing in his playing, his sound
-- the love of big band music,” Haist said.
But he’d play nearly anything -- the Beatles, Three Dog Night,
jazz, easy listening -- at the Aku Tiki Lounge -- everything, that is, except Hawaiian music. For about five years, sometimes
six nights a week and easily five hours a night, The Mac Five was the house band at the Aku Tiki. The players behind McCune
changed during the run, but his trumpet was featured in every performance.
“He knew everybody that walked into
that door,” bassman Heckman said. “He knew what their favorite number was. He knew the name of their kids. He
was a good showman. He knew how to make people feel good. It was a natural thing for him. He didn’t have to work at
As recently as last year, Heckman played with McCune at an invitation-only ice cream social held for Bryan
Hospital clients over the age of 55. Heckman said McCune remembered plenty of them from the Aku Tiki days, and lit into the
songs they had requested in the '70s.
His sharp memory served him musically, too. Heckman said that even if they went
two years without playing together, it felt like a week, tops.
“He had the talent to be the ultimate entertainer,”
Peggy McCune said, “Well, I thought he was the greatest.”
He could get people dancing,
Peggy McCune said, herself included. She knew Mac McCune from his day job selling clothes at Simon’s, but hadn’t
really talked with him until they found a corner to have a coffee one Friday night when she had gone to Aku Tiki with some
She said she thought about him through the weekend. They began dating soon after, but didn’t get
married for another five years. Perhaps it was because they’d both been previously married, she said, and they were
They’d been married 38 years when Mac McCune died Thursday.
“He’s been my soul mate,”