Ain't Lost Nothin'
'Godfather of Austin Blues' W. C. Clark plays I-10 Music Series
By Robert Feuer
"It's just music only. It doesn't do anybody wrong—it doesn't tell a lie. It's just something to listen to, that's all," says 70-year-old guitarist W. C. Clark, discussing his Texas blues/Memphis soul sound by phone from Austin. "I mix it up and read the crowd and see where they are, and go in that direction."
Clark and his band of over 30 years, the Blues Revue, visit Santa Rosa's Last Day Saloon on Feb. 19, part of KRSH DJ Bill Bowker's new I-10 Music Series, titled, Bowker says, after "the Southern route that goes from L.A. to Florida." Southern music will be presented monthly at various locales, along with drink specials ($2 PBRs, $3 bourbon) and food deals ($5 for a plate of soul food).
Born in Austin in 1939, Clark escorted his grandmother to and from church as a boy. "I was around all that choir singing," he says, "but there were always guys, off on the side, playing the blues somewhere, and I was with both of them." As a teenager, he was exposed to a vibrant Austin blues scene at clubs such as the Victory Grill and Charlie's Playhouse, where he joined people like B. B. King, Freddy King, Bobby Bland and James Brown onstage whenever they passed through town.
After touring the southern "chitlin' circuit" with Joe Tex, Clark returned to Austin and hooked up with Jimmie Vaughan's band, Texas Storm, his first experience with a mixed-race band. Clifford Antone opened his club there, where, Clark says, "blues musicians could be free. I was one of the oldest players around Austin and still am. Any musician who could play, who came from out of town, I would put them in my band." Clark is hailed as the "Godfather of Austin Blues," a role he says he's enjoyed.
Like his father, Clark was a mechanic by trade. Stevie Ray Vaughan frequented the auto shop, eventually convincing Clark to quit and play bass for his new band, Triple Threat. This four-year collaboration included co-writing credit for the hit song "Cold Shot." Other highlights of Clark's career include four Blues Music Awards, an international blues award in France, and several appearances on Austin City Limits.
Though he later recorded for major blues labels like Black Top and Alligator, Clark's first self-produced and written album didn't come until 1986. "We were having so much fun," he explains, "and not thinking so much about expanding over the world."
W. C. Clark expands over our world with Bill Noteman and the Rockets on Friday, Feb. 19, at the Last Day Saloon. 120 Fifth St., Santa Rosa. 8:30pm. $15–$18. 707.545.2343.
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