His Father's Son... Kinda
Stars of Texas
By Brad Springs
If you know anything of the Texas music scene than you know who Delbert McClinton is, from his childhood roots in Lubbock through his days making a mark on the Forth Worth music scene. From there on to California, Nashville and beyond.
Delbert has made his mark penning songs that were covered by such notables as Emmylou Harris, The Blues Brothers (the original Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi Blues Brothers), Vince Gill, Wynona, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Garth Brooks the list goes on and on. Not to mention his 2001 release "Nothing Personal" debuted on five Billboard charts and earned him a Grammy Award.
I might also mention that in 1962 while playing harmonica with Bruce Channel on tour in Europe he showed some licks to a young rhythm guitarist for a band at the bottom of the bill one night, who just happened to be John Lennon. Those licks later showed up on hits by a little band called The Beatles. His four decades of giving his blend of blues, country and blue-eyed soul are phenomenal accomplishments to say the least.
So imagine this guy is your father, large shoes to fill I'd say. Clay McClinton doesn't try to be his father, while taking all the influences he had growing up in stride he struck out to make his own distinct mark on music. He grew up being taught both guitar and harmonica by both his father and older brother Monty and at age 19 he decided to pursue music as a career more seriously. While he admits to never really thinking of any other career than music his approach to it was not geared to seeking the spotlight as a priority but rather to writing good songs first. A trait that so many would be musicians have to learn over years of trial and error. If the songs are good the spotlight will follow, like it or not. As a teenager he had already played in a couple Fort Worth based bands but upon graduation he took his first step down the professional musician path by moving to Austin and absorbing the creative juices so to speak that ooze from the town. While he sat in with numerous local acts he still was intent on perfecting his own original songs rather than jumping into a cover band situation and lending his name to it, he's Delbert's son after all and the musical doors that that alone opens could have been an easy avenue to jump into and have great success playing standards mixed in with his fathers songs and his own. In a musical hot bed such as Austin a lot of the time the true original music gets overlooked for the party college atmosphere where the band plays all the songs you know and love and can sing along to. Those bands generally get paid much better as well. It's a tough town and my own personal hat is off to Clay for not taking that route and sticking to making his own good music, even though that is the road less traveled if you want to be heard or paid for that matter.
Clay's next musical move would be across the pond to Europe where he spent four months living and playing in hostels with some fellow like minded musicians exploring the different musical cultures that Europe had to offer and expanding on his own musical knowledge. In his own words "I thought it would make me a better writer, and I think it did, plus it was a hell of a lot of fun. When returning to the states he took up residence for a few years in Flagstaff, AZ, once more exploring musical boundaries and styles by playing with two very different bands. A Texas stomp and southern blues outfit called The Blues Project and Second Harvest, which was a more acoustic blues, bluegrass and folk entity. After a couple years The Clay McClinton Band emerged putting Clay and his Telecaster center stage. Write good songs and the spotlight will find you was coming into play and this brought about the next step in Clay's career and his latest move to Nashville. In Nashville he set about the business of cultivating his songwriting and production skills so that they met his self imposed high standards. That led to his debut release which he co-produced, "Out of the Blue", an album title that I find ironic because Clay McClinton has come from anywhere but out of the blue. His trip has been one not of random acts but rather a one track progression toward a goal to first write and produce great music and them perform it secondary. Once again in his own words "I love performing but I also love producing and writing. I love sitting down on a rainy day with a cup of joe and writing and maybe not even performing that song but having someone else do it." Spoken like a true musician's musician, it has to be right before it sees the spotlight.
"Out of the Blue "features 11 songs that while I must admit you can feel a little Delbert in some of the songs, two are co-writes with Dad, you also get a heaping helping of just who Clay has grown to be in his travels across the land. Horns, bluegrass, honky tonk, singer-songwriter, blues and soulful rock are all musical influences that come together to make those little distinctions that make it Clay McClinton's voice alone. A song written on a train leaving Switzerland, a blues song written out of improv in a Flagstaff venue, a rainy day in Nashville inspired song. Songs that were written from personal experiences and some from experiences that were just made up so that everyone can relate to the words. A record that in as short an explanation possible takes you on a journey through his varied experiences in musical styles and genres and is done well in every transition. To include his first song ever written "Far Too Long". A song that in the liner notes is explained like this."This is one of the first songs I ever wrote. My songwriting wasn't developed at that time, so it's a little abstract. It's a little more amateur, but I wanted it on this CD because it's got some tradition in my background. I played it in my bluegrass band and in a band in Austin and my blues band. And Dad's always loved it. When people say I sound like Dad on this one, I consider it a compliment. I have my own style, but he's the man. I highly respect him as a singer and songwriter and performer. It's nice to have someone like him to look up to." In my humble opinion that's spoken like a true artist with great humility and respect for the craft he practices. In a world where so much hinges on connections and who you know to get to the top it's an inspiration to see someone that rather than ride a coat tail or try and fill his father's big shoes has set out to get a pair of big shoes on his own. He's off to a damn fine start.
Clay's band is comprised of Andrew Bett on piano and backing vocals, Jim Evans on drums and percussion, and Jeff Beam on bass. They will be making a pass through Texas in late summer so keep your eyes open and visit www.claymcclinton.com for specific dates. Look for live shows coming to Texas in September. Clay is also in the studio in Nashville working on his sophomore debut (as of yet untitled) so keep your ears peeled for that. You can hear songs from "Out of the Blue" played locally on 98.1 KVET and 90.5 KUT in Austin so request those spins. If your local station isn't spinning it or doesn't have it drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'm sure his folks would gladly send one out to the station. Better yet hit the website and pick one up for yourself, I recommend it.
And as always get your butt off the couch and go out and support live original music in Texas.