McLagan became interested in rock & roll when he heard “Rock Around the Clock” at the age of 10. Initially a guitar player in skiffle groups, he took piano lessons only at his mother’s insistence. After hearing Booker T. and the M.G.’s, he became interested in playing the organ. He first started playing in bands in the early 1960s, initially using the Hohner Cembalet before switching to the Hammond Organ and Wurlitzer electric piano, as well as occasional guitar. He was influenced by Cyril Davies’ All Stars, and his first professional group was the Muleskinners, followed by the Boz People with future King Crimson and Bad Company member Boz Burrell. In 1965, he was hired, for the sum of £30 a week, to join Small Faces by their manager, Don Arden, replacing Jimmy Winston. Once the probation period ended, his pay was reduced (at his request) to £20 a week, which was what the other band members were getting. They never received more than that because Don Arden collected all the proceeds of their hard-earned work, and it wasn’t until 1997 that they started receiving any royalties. Mac played his debut gig with them at London’s Lyceum Theatre on November 2nd that year. In 1969, after Steve Marriott left the group and Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood joined, the band changed its name to Faces.
During this time, McLagan also played piano on the studio side of the 1972 album “The London Chuck Berry Sessions.” After the Faces split up in 1975, McLagan worked as a sideman for the Rolling Stones, both in the studio (“Some Girls” including electric piano on “Miss You”), on tour and on various Ronnie Wood projects, including the New Barbarians. In addition, his session work has backed such artists as Chuck Berry, Jackson Browne, Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan, Melissa Etheridge, Bonnie Raitt, Paul Westerberg, Izzy Stradlin, John Hiatt, Frank Black, Nikki Sudden, John Mayer, Bruce Springsteen, Tony Scalzo, Carla Olson and Mick Taylor. An in-demand player, he filled the role of bandleader with his own Bump Band from 1977 onwards.
McLagan was a member of Billy Bragg’s band “The Blokes” for several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, co-writing and performing on the 2002 England, Half English album and tour. In 2009 he joined the James McMurtry band on tour in Europe. On September 25, 2010, at Stubbs in Austin, Texas, McLagan joined The Black Crowes on keyboards and vocals for their encore set. The set included two Faces songs, “You’re So Rude” and “Glad and Sorry”.
Also in 2013, he appeared with the Warren Haynes band at the Moody Theater in Austin, Texas, playing piano on one tune and organ on the other. In 2014, McLagan was also a founding member of the Empty Hearts. The group recorded on 429 Records and McLagan’s bandmates included Blondie drummer Clem Burke, the Chesterfield Kings’ bassist Andy Babiuk, the Cars’ guitarist Elliot Easton, and the Romantics’ guitarist and vocalist Wally Palmar. The band’s self-titled first album was released in August 2014 and produced by Ed Stasium. McLagan is also featured prominently on the Lucinda Williams 2014 double album “Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone” and released several solo albums. Towards the end of his life, he relocated to Austin, Texas and did gig nights at local clubs and bars. Ian McLagan & the Bump Band played at the 2006 Austin City Limits Music Festival, and opened for the Rolling Stones in Austin, Texas, in 2006.
McLagan was married from 1968 to 1972 to Sandy Serjeant, a dancer on the popular TV show “Ready Steady Go!” with whom he had a son, Lee. McLagan then developed a relationship with Kim Kerrigan, the estranged wife of Keith Moon, drummer of the Who. She divorced Moon and she and her daughter Amanda (from her marriage to Moon) commenced living with McLagan. They were married in 1978, one month after Moon’s death at the age of 32. Kerrigan died at age 57 in a traffic accident near their home in Austin, Texas, on August 2, 2006.
McLagan published an autobiography titled “All the Rage: A Riotous Romp Through Rock & Roll History” in 2000, and added to, appended and reprinted it in 2013.