From Austin With Soul
The Alligator debut from the "godfather" of the Austin blues scene. Showcases W.C.'s heart-melting blend of sweet Memphis soul and tough Texas Blues, plus backing from the cream of Austin blues players and a duet with Marcia Ball!
Produced by Mark Kazanoff
Recorded by Larry Greenhill at Arlyn Studios, Austin, TX and Pedernales Studio, Spicewood, TX
Additional recording and mixing by Stuart Sullivan at Wire Sound, Austin, TX
Mastered by Dan Stout and Bruce Iglauer at Colossal Mastering, Chicago, IL
Photos by Max Crace
Design by Kevin Niemiec
Executive Producer, Bruce Iglauer
W.C. Clark, Guitar and Vocals
Larry Fulcher, Bass
Barry “Frosty” Smith, Drums and Percussion
Derek O’Brien, Rhythm Guitar @
Pat Boyack, Rhythm Guitar #
Riley Osborne, Keyboards $
Gray Gregson, Keyboards *
Mike Cross, Background Vocals
with Marcia Ball, Vocals and Piano +
The Texas Horns, arranged by Mark Kazanoff:
Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff, Alto and Tenor Sax
Les Izmore, Baritone Sax
Gary Slechta, Trumpet
Randy Zimmerman, Trombone
All horn solos by Mark Kazanoff
Very special thanks to Vicky Moerbe, who was absolutely crucial in the making of this record.
W.C. Clark thanks: Vicky—for doing more work than she got paid for. Bruce—for giving me creative freedom in production; Kaz—for all the years we’ve worked together; Steve Ozark and Ozark Talent; everyone who supported me in this effort AND MY FANS.
Thanks also to: Mike Buck; Marcia Ball; Flo Murdock; Jamy Kazanoff; Beverly Howell; Ida Mae Shelby; Freddie and Lisa Fletcher; Chris Moncada; John McAfee; and all the players that have worked with W.C. over the many years of his career.
W.C. Clark is booked by Ozark Talent; phone (785) 841-2800; email email@example.com
and managed by Vicky Moerbe at Crossfire Productions; phone (512) 442-5678;
Great voices may be a gift, but soul can only be bought with experience. And often the price is steep.
W.C. Clark has paid in full for the soul-stirring richness of his wonderfully evocative voice, resiliently rising above personal tragedy to become a blues beacon for others in need of relief and release. He's living proof that soul singers are made, not born, and that the voice is just another instrument until soul gives it a song to sing.
Clark began paying his blues dues and accumulating his soul credits early on, scuffling as a Texas teenager to create a musical career. Years of one-night stands, record company neglect and the daily trials and tribulations of being a roots-conscious soul singer in an often indifferent music industry provided a foundation of source material. An encounter with prostate cancer burnished his image as more than just a simple survivor while supplying still more soulful experience to tap.
But it was a singular incident, the nightmare of every hard-working band that lives on the road, that forged and tempered the steely soulfulness of Clark's character, in both personal and professional terms. In March 1997 Clark and his band had finished a successful Midwest tour. When several members of the group made separate plans for returning, it fell to Clark to drive the van the long road home to Austin from Milwaukee, a monotonous 1,200-mile journey through America's homogenized heartland. Clark made it across the Texas state line and was heading toward Dallas, still many hours from home, when he lost control of the vehicle. He awoke from the wreckage to discover his fiancé and drummer had died in the accident.
Clark was emotionally devastated and physically injured by the wreck but he was not artistically incapacitated. He knew the best therapy was his music and he continued to perform, sharing his soul with his fans on a nightly basis, while dealing with the enduring damage of the accident. "You just have to keep doing what you've been doing," Clark explains. "It wasn't always easy but I knew it was the right thing to do to continue playing my music. I felt I owed it to everybody and I knew the only time I really felt at peace was when I was onstage."
A few months later Clark received his first W.C. Handy Award, for the year's best soul/blues album, Texas Soul. He hasn't slowed down since, even when battling cancer. This musical focus, which brought him another W.C. Handy Award in 1999, has served him well through the years, as well as serving as an inspiration for a generation of fellow blues players, soul singers and roots musicians of all types.
Clark has been known as "The Godfather of the Austin Blues Scene" for decades and it's an honorific title as hard-earned as it is well-deserved. Clark, as musically comfortable with soulful Memphis R&B as with guitar-driven Texas blues, united all the disparate elements of the evolving Austin scene. He dispensed experienced words of wisdom, ranging from chord changes to onstage attire to how to get paid, helping to professionalize the scene while also broadening and elevating its music.
Clark's audience of musicians always seemed to include a young guitarist named Stevie Ray Vaughan. So, it was not overly surprising that it was Vaughan who convinced Clark, who had opted for a day job as an auto mechanic, that his true calling was that of a full-time musician. Vaughan, as was his nature, was unrelenting in his efforts, dropping by daily to tell Clark about his plans for a band and how he had to be part of it. Ultimately Clark put down his wrenches and picked up his bass guitar, joining Vaughan and blues belter Lou Ann Barton to form the Triple Threat Revue, a short-lived supergroup that launched three significant careers while igniting the Austin rocking blues explosion of the 1980s. The group also served as the birthplace of a platinum single as Clark and keyboardist Mike Kindred composed SRV's hit Cold Shot for the band.
But Clark, an actual native Austinite-a genuine rarity on the Austin music scene-already had an extensive blues background by the time Vaughan, Barton and the others of their generation arrived in town. Clark was a pervasive presence on the bandstands of the blues bars of East Austin in the mid-'50s as a young teenager. It was a historic and still happening scene and Clark, despite his youth, was in the middle of it, playing bass behind the stars and soaking up the down home sensibilities of soul music in its natural habitat.
"I didn't even have a real bass when I started," Clark recalls. "I just took three strings off my guitar and tried to get by that way." In due time Clark acquired not only a real bass, a Fender Precision he fondly remembers, but also a growing reputation among his elders. At the time Clark was playing in the bands of T.D. Bell and Blues Boy Hubbard, seminal Central Texas artists who successfully bridged races and generations to ultimately create the biracial blues explosion that put Austin on the musical map in the 1980s.
The center of the scene was the East Austin hot spot Charlie's Playhouse, and a musician who scored a steady gig there had officially 'arrived.' Clark settled in for an extended stint as a member of the house band, an endlessly eclectic tuxedo-clad unit that played all hues of blues and more than a little soulful R&B. Clark immersed himself in the music, developing his own sound on both bass and guitar while carefully observing the tricks of the trade as practiced by the local stars and the many big-name roadshow attractions.
Clark assimilated and personalized what he heard, eventually arriving at a signature sound that was decidedly different than most from deep in the heart of Texas. His affinity for slow-burning soul served to round the edges of the Texas guitar blues he had grown up with, creating a best-of-both-worlds situation where intense emotion always smoldered beneath the groove-conscious surface.
When an opportunity to go on the road presented itself, Clark jumped on the bus, signing on to play guitar with soulman Joe Tex. He spent a couple of years behind the flamboyant singer, spicing up Show Me, Skinny Legs and All, Hold What You've Got and other hits from the Joe Tex catalog while learning showmanship from the extroverted vocalist. "That was just a great experience," Clark remembers. "We played everywhere and the energy level was always high because Joe put on such a show."
Clark's renown in Texas was widespread, especially among musicians, but it took the PBS program Austin City Limits to finally spread the news beyond the Lone Star state. The television extravaganza graphically demonstrated Clark's towering stature on his home turf. He was honored by the program in 1990 with a 50th birthday special that reunited him in front of the television cameras with a large cast of musical friends from the days of the birth of the modern Austin blues boom. The brothers Vaughan, both Stevie Ray and Jimmie, Lou Ann Barton, Kim Wilson, and Angela Strehli among others, all took part in the tribute, one Clark recalls with pride. "I had wanted to be on Austin City Limits for years and to finally be featured on my birthday with all my friends on stage, too, was better than anything I had hoped for," he says. And when the program aired it was paired with a Stevie Ray Vaughan performance segment, ensuring a large audience got to see SRV's mentor get his proper recognition. A 2001 Austin City Limits episode of outtakes from Vaughan shows, featuring an extended jam with Clark, brought him back into the television spotlight while reaffirming the musical relationship between the two. Clark has also had a long-running and uniformly successful musical relationship with Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff, the multi-instrumentalist turned producer who guided this recording to its completion. Kazanoff has produced Clark's three previous albums and his understanding of the singer's musical method allows him to emphasize his many strengths with artful arranging, examples of which are found on every tune. It also doesn't hurt that the album was recorded on Clark's home turf in Austin with an all-star cast of musical friends and affiliates, all familiar with Clark as both an influence and a fellow player. This unusually sympathetic setting gave Clark the confidence to stretch out a bit and he masterfully maximizes the opportunity, digging deeper into his soul bag than ever before.
And, by the way, the W.C. stands for Wesley Curley for those who care about such things. Meanwhile, Clark continues to care only about playing his music. "It's what I set out to do as a kid and what I've been lucky enough to do for almost fifty years," he explains. "It's my life and I pour my soul into it every night I get on the bandstand. It's just who I am and what I do and I plan on keeping on doing it for as long as I can."
(Austin, Texas 2/02)
Michael Point writes for The Austin American-Statesman, Down Beat and Baseball America.