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     Blind, Crippled & Crazy
    Artists: Delbert McClinton and Glen Clark
    Label: New West Records
    Released: June 18, 2013
    Reviewed: June 23, 2013

     

    I was first turned on to Delbert McClinton back in 1980. I was in the process of promoting a Christian concert by former Wings drummer, Joe English, and Bonnie Bramlett was opening for him. The Saturday before the concert, their record label phoned me and told me that Bonnie was going to be on performing with a cat by the name of Delbert McClinton on Saturday night live. I watched their performance of his hit, Givin’ It Up For YourLove, and became an instant McClinton fan. 

    Fast forwarding to today, the three-time Grammy winner has kicked out his 28th album, Blind, Crippled and Crazy. It blends R&B, country, blues and rock ’n’ roll with humor, heart and roadhouse virtuosity. The disc also reunites McClinton with his longtime friend and musical running partner Glen Clark, making these 12 songs the first time the seminal roots music duo Delbert & Glen have recorded since 1973. 

    “We’ve always had an amazing rapport as musicians and friends, but we’ve been off living our own lives,” McClinton explains. “For the last decade Glen and me have been talking about doing another album, and everything fell into place last year here in Nashville with my songwriting partner Gary Nicholson.” 

    Besides co-writing several tracks, Nicholson co-produced the LP with McClinton and Clark and played guitar alongside drummer Tom Hambridge, fellow six-stringer Bob Britt, keyboardists Kevin McKendree and Bruce Katz, and other members of McClinton’s touring band as well as blues guitar hero Anson Funderburgh, who guests on “Oughta Know,” a hot-licks fest penned by McClinton’s son Clay. 

    Blind, Crippled And Crazy’s opening Texas shuffle “Been Around a Long Time” sets a reverberating tone of self-deprecating humor, as does the album’s title. 

    “We’re a couple guys who started playing together in ragtag bands around Fort Worth in the ’60s,” Clark relates, “so we like to poke some fun at ourselves for being older now.” 

    Clark picked up the tune’s tag line many years ago from a feisty 102-year-old woman in Arkansas, who told him, “Sonny, I ain’t old. I’ve just been around a long time,” and the song finally emerged during the disc’s 2011 writing sessions. 

    The loping and textured More and More, Less and Less resonates similarly as it dismisses the excesses of youth, although its acoustic guitar bedrock and the yearning timbre of McClinton’s vocal performance and his haunting harmonica solo add poignancy, too. 

    “The bottom line is that we’re still bulldogs on a pork chop, but our teeth are ground down, so it takes longer to chew that thing up,” Clark says, chuckling a bit. “But we still get it right down to the bone.” 

    That also explains the amount of sheer growl in Blind, Crippled And Crazy’s grooves. World of Hurtis a snarling six-string rocker about biting heartbreak, and Good as I Feel Today rings like a great lost Little Feat number — although McClinton and Clark come by its drawling melody, swaggering rhythm and buttery slide guitar via their own assimilation of R&B, blues, country and nascent rock in the 1950s and early ’60s. 

    They were schooled by the sounds of Ray Charles, Charles Brown, Little Richard, Bob Wills, Elvis Presley and Hank Williams courtesy of the radio and their siblings’ record collections. Then they graduated to playing the roadhouses of their native Texas. 

    Musical mutual admiration rapidly followed. “Delbert was the first great singer I ever saw in person, so he’s always been one of my biggest influences,” Clark relates. In turn, McClinton testifies that “Glen is one of the few people I can reallyduet with. Our phrasing just compliments each other, and our voices sound great together. I have more fun singing with Glen than anybody else.” 

    Clark left Texas in the early ’70s for the lure of Los Angeles’ big-time music business, and after a while McClinton followed. Soon the collaborators landed a record deal and cut two albums, 1972’s Delbert & Glen and the follow-up Subject to Change. Both of these now-hard-to-find classics plumbed the same turf as Blind, Crippled And Crazy, albeit in the sweeter vocal registers of younger men. 

    McClinton’s B Movie Box Car Blues from Delbert & Glen was re-cut six years later by the Blues Brothers for the double-platinum-selling Briefcase Full of Blues and has become a standard of the genre. In a twist of fate, Clark would later play keyboards with the Blues Brothers after becoming music director for Jim Belushi in 1997. 

    Delbert and Glen began their four-decade hiatus after both men moved back to Texas separately to follow romance and their solo careers. Clark returned to Los Angeles in 1977. He became a popular songwriter, authoring tunes for Rita Coolidge, Etta James, Loretta Lynn, Wynonna Judd, Kris Kristofferson and many others. He also hit the road with his keyboards, touring with Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt and others before beginning his dozen years with Belushi, which included nine years as composer for the sitcom According to Jim. 

    Of course, McClinton became an international star in the realms of blues and traditional country music, cross-pollinating the genres into his own unique sound. Since 1980, when his sixth solo album The Jealous Kind sparked the aforementioned top 10 hit Givin’ It Up for Your Love, he has remained one of the most respected figures in American roots music. In 1992 the man who gave John Lennon his first harmonica lesson — when McClinton toured England in the early ’60s as part of Bruce Channel’s band — won his first Grammy Award, for the duet Good Man, Good Womanwith Bonnie Raitt. That was followed by a second win in 2003 for Nothing Personal in the Best Contemporary Blues Album Category. In 2006, he won a third Grammy for his Cost of Living album. McClinton’s songs have also been recorded by a who’s who of country music royalty including Vince Gill, Wynonna Judd, Garth Brooks, Emmylou Harris, Martina McBride and Trisha Yearwood. 

    Over the decades his blend of soaring blue-eyed soul singing sprinkled with red Texas dust, the emotional wealth of his songwriting and his command of virtuoso supporting ensembles has built McClinton a wildly avid fan base in the United States and Europe. They are nearly like Deadheads in their willingness to travel to repeated shows and their level of support. Each January they turn the Delbert McClinton & Friends Sandy Beaches Cruise, a weeklong music festival he hosts aboard luxury liners, into a sell-out. 

    “The bottom line is, at this point I don’t believe in doing anything that’s not fun,” McClinton says, “and recording Blind, Crippled And Crazy was a blast. Me and Gary, who I’ve known for 40 years starting back in Texas, handpicked every musician on the record and made sure every song was perfect. The title, from the old soul tune, is something I’ve wanted to use for years. And singing with Glen again — between the way our voices mix and his sense of humor — makes me excited about us taking this music out on the road together. 

    “I’ve got a good deal in life,” McClinton continues. “I’ve got a lot of good people for fans who support me — although I’ve won over each of them one-by-one on the road. I can pick and choose whatever I want to do. And I’ve never had to keep a job for long, thank God, because jobs stink. I know. I’ve had a lot of them, and I know why I got fired from every one. And believe me, making this album and singing these songs with Glen is nothing like a job.”

     

     

  • Posted July, 2011

     

    bramlettrehearsalbarbicanconcertlondon2005Photo Courtesy of Peter CrossIt was early 1981. John Lennon had been murdered the previous December and I’m in the process of organizing and promoting a concert at my church by the former drummer of Paul McCartney and Wings, Joe English. English had “crossed over” to the Contemporary Christian Music (“CCM”) genre as many other secular artists had. To say things were a little nutty because of the whole Lennon/McCartney association would be an understatement. My phone was ringing off the hook with people representing various levels of instability just wanting to be close to anything “Beatles”.

    Yeah, it was a bit scary.

    However, one time my phone rang and it was Joe English’s manager asking me if I would mind terribly if Bonnie Bramlett could open for Joe’s concert. As long as it wasn’t going to tax my already strained and skimpy budget, I didn’t care. To be honest, at that time I wasn’t as immersed into rock and roll history and royalty to fully appreciate just who Ms. Bramlett was. After the call, I did my homework and quickly realized just how lucky I was to get that opportunity presented to me.

    Ms. Bramlett was the “Bonnie” on the iconic rock husband and wife duo, Delaney & Bonnie. Mr. and Mrs. Bramlett enjoyed chart making hits such as a cover of Dave Mason’s Only You Know and I Know and their own Never-Ending Song of Love. They shared the stage with such huge names as George Harrison, Dave Mason, John Lennon, Eric Clapton and ton of others. 

    A prolific songwriter, she’s co-written such songs as Superstar and Give Peace a Chance with Leon Russell as well as Let It Rain with Eric Clapton. If you’ve never seen Bonnie sing Superstar, you really don’t know what you’re missing. Check out the video of her performing that tune on the YouTube clip shown on this page.

    After she and Delaney split up (both professionally and matrimonially), Bonnie went on to pursue her solo career, supported by a band that wasn’t very well known at the time: The Average White Band. Throughout the seventies, she released three albums (It’s Time, Lady’s Choice and Memories) with the legendary label, Capricorn Records. When she wasn’t busy with her solo work, she was providing backup vocals for some of the biggest and diverse names in music. Folks like Joe Cocker, Dwight Yoakum, Carly Simon and Joe Cocker, again, just to name a few. In fact, with her work with the Allman Brothers, she is the only woman to earn the title as the only “Allman Sister”. How cool is that?

    Anyway, back to the concert.

    The Saturday before the concert, I got a small taste of what I was in for with Ms. Bramlett. On Saturday Night Live Delbert McClinton performed his hit song at the time, Giving It Up for Your Love, which Bonnie sang back-up on the record as well as that performance. In my opinion, she stole the show.

    The following Wednesday night was the concert. My gosh! When Bonnie Bramlett took the stage as the opening act, I was totally and completely blown away by the raw power and soul that woman projected. I definitely got an education in the power of performing. She seemed to embody rhythm, blues, rock and soul all in one body. She sang it like she invented it and drove it like she stole it. And, yet, there was such a gentleness and sincerity about her that, when she spoke or hugged your neck (Yeah! She gave me big ol’ long hug after her performance!), you knew that this woman was as real and genuine as a human being could be.

    Over the years, I’ve kept up with Ms. Bramlett, catching her appearances in movies, (The Doors and The Guardian) or her regular role on the hit TV show, Rosanne as well as a guest role on Fame. In the past year, the R&B icon blipped large on my Boomerocity radar when I came in contact with her daughter, Michele (Delaney’s daughter from his previous relationship with Patty Stanley). An interview with Michele soon resulted.

    In the months since that interview, I’ve kept in touch with Michele and the work she is tirelessly pursuing.   In recent weeks, Michele was kind enough to arrange a phone interview with “Baba” (Bonnie). It was the first time we had spoken with each other since that Joe English concert over 30 years ago. When I called Bonnie for our interview, our first few minutes were spent reminiscing about that show.

    At one point, Bonnie asked me, “Don’t you think we were way ahead of our time in gospel music? I mean, c’mon!” I thought about her question for a few seconds and had to agree with her. While there were definitely other “secular” artists who had crossed over into contemporary gospel music as well as some Christian metal bands and the like, there really wasn’t anyone who reflected the kind of R&B that Bonnie and friends helped pioneer. Bonnie agreed.

    “Nobody was playing slide guitar! The slide just wasn’t happening yet! They {mprestriction ids="*"}(the Christian music industry and some of its fans) just wanted us in pigeon holes.” As we shared some stories of some of our redneck friends’ reaction to CCM, Bonnie said they symbolized her uncle who was a preacher when she was a kid.

    “They’re (our redneck friends) are my uncle!” she said with a laugh that accentuated our entire conversation. “My grandmother would roll! Playing music in the church that loud? With drums? God bless ‘em for being there because they were my foundation. That’s why I’m still alive today – because of him (her uncle) and his red neck! God bless his little red neck! And you know what? I’m sorry, I wouldn’t trade them. They built us a foundation that kept me alive and allowed me to have the cajones to even come there and do it (the concert in a church). God bless ‘em and their little red necks because they won’t be here long.”

    As we chatted about the differences in tastes in music amongst the “churched”, Bonnie shared her religious background that had a major influence in her style of singing.

    “We were the first Methodists in our genealogy in the state of Illinois. But I have to say that my great grandmother – who we lovingly called ‘Momma’ and who raised me the first three or four years of my life and who I went to every weekend – she was like a rock star! She followed preachers!” She began mimicking her grandmother as she said, “We’ve got to go see so-and-so preach at the Pentecostal church!’ That was okay with her. ‘Let’s watch Brother So-and-So at this Methodist church.’ And, then, she was a big radio listener and a big Bible teacher herself. My great grandfather was a minister. He was terribly shy and she would write all of his sermons – and he just gave ‘em! She rehearsed him and he did it because he was the minister.

    “He really wanted to be a newspaper man. He had his own printing press. To have your own printing press and publishing in those days was awesome. He was a writer and poet, as well.” When I suggest that is who she inherited her artistic genes from, she laughed that infectious laugh of hers and said, “Ah! Totally! Because on the other side of my family were Irish travelling mountain men! It was what it was!”

    We shift the gears of our conversation to what Ms. Bramlett has been up to in recent days.

    “Well, you know what? I’m 67 in November and I’m retiring!”

    You heard it here first, folks!

    “So, I’m sitting here wondering, ‘How do you do that? How do you really do that?’ But I do know that I’m done. I haven’t quit but I’m not going to be out there rustling the bushes, trying to get work or tours, a record label or any of that kind of thing anymore. I’m pretty much done with that. I’m wanting to have new dreams - maybe acting, maybe an artist. Maybe I’ll be a writer. Who knows? That’s what I’m doing this year.”

    At this point, Bonnie shared with me a super secret that I had to pinky-swear not to tell. What I will tell you is that she has appeared on a pilot of a new TV reality show, helping someone with their singing. From everything she’s told me about it, her appearance on the show will tie up some loose ends, musically, for a certain celebrity. If the series is picked up, it’s going to make big new so stay tuned to Boomerocity in the weeks and months ahead to learn what this is all about.

    As Ms. Bramlett continues to share what she’s been up to, she shares a little insight into her family life.

    “I’m spending the summer with my own grandson. He’s on the high functioning end of autism and he needs some special attention. And the thing is I kind of know what to do with him because I am him, sort of – except in my days there was no diagnosis for ADHD or Autism. I mean, I rocked horribly and, having tried to self-medicate just to feel normal, I understand. We’re trying to keep it very holistic – no medication. We’re working with it through diet and nutrition.”

    Bonnie also shared with me some other options that she is investigating including teaching performance singing (“I’m not a do-re-mi kind of teacher! But teaching is not out of the question . . .”). This quickly led to discussing how songwriting today is different from back in the 60’s and 70’s.

    “Back then it wasn’t like ‘writing a song’, you know? It was very a Native American understanding for me. It was, ‘I just made that up.’ I used to never call myself a songwriter. I just said, ‘I made that up.’” 

    It’s clear that Bramlett has a thorough understanding of, to quote a Joni Mitchell song, “the star making machinery behind a popular song” today. 

    “There’s a whole craft - here in Nashville – to writing a song. For someone who makes songs up, it’s quite confusing. It’s hard to incorporate one’s heart into the ‘recipe”. It’s the genius of the songwriters today. It is happening. These are all really great songs and wonderful stories that are out there. God knows that the singers are fabulous! There’s just so many of them. You cannot help but compare them to each other. There’s only twelve notes, honey! How could they not be alike now and then? 

    “There’s so many songs and so many artists. It’s really taken a hit among many of my peers. I’m hearing them get pretty hard on the music today. That’s not been my experience. I’m seeing some fabulous singers and songwriters and artists and creative dancers. I mean, my word! These kids are working! I mean, they ain’t playin’. They’re hard working kids!. 

    Having a “tetch” of ADD myself, I go off the conversational trail and ask Bonnie what she likes to listen to when she isn’t working.

    “I promise you, it’s not like I listen to the radio or listen to the TV or listen to my iPod and all of that. I don’t. I do that in my car by myself. It’s usually our own music, my stuff, (daughter) Bekka’s stuff, people that I’m working with – mostly Mussel Shoals Sound stuff and gospel stuff – the Winans! I have to go to gospel music to get the skills I’m looking for. Then you have to weed it out because there’s so many notes being sung now. Their chops are incredible but they don’t linger long enough to put that feeling into it. I go to gospel music to get my butt kicked! If I want to be humbled, man, I just listen to Vickie Winans. She just gives me a righteous butt-kickin’! ‘King Jesus’ (a James Cleveland song entitled, Long As I Got King Jesus).”

    Rounding out that part of the conversation, she concluded, “I just hope that I never get too old to learn or be interested enough to want to learn. I don’t want to get that old!”

    I have a feeling Miss Bonnie will never get that old.

    A couple of years ago, while interview Big Brother and the Holding Company’s Sam Andrew, Bonnie’s name came up in the conversation and paid here a very high compliment (you can find that interview here). Prior to my interview with Miss Bonnie Sam and I exchanged some e-mails in which he had this to say about her:

    “The main thing about Bonnie is that she is very soulful and one of the most decent people in our business. I loved her relationship with Janis - honest, comradely and collegial . . . I am only sorry we didn't get to work with her... yet.”

    I read that quote to Bonnie AND mentioned the quote from Sam in my interview with him wherein, again, he mentioned his desire to work with her. Bramlett responded immediately and unequivocally.

    “It can happen! That is totally doable! Wouldn’t that be cool? I’d love to do that! I’m flattered! I’ve got goose bumps!”

    Our conversation came around to discuss the beginning of Ms. Bramlett’s career when she was a teenager in St. Louis. As she was learning the nuances of singing and performing jazz, she worked with some huge names in genre like Miles Davis, Herbie Mann and Stan Getz before making the move into rhythm and blues. I wondered what pulled her away from jazz and into R&B.

    “Pretty much just my youth. I was a young girl in an area where there were no white girls singing like I was. I mean, I didn’t ever jazz sung. In my world, there was just me. I felt like I was groomed by most of the heavy weights. I was told how to behave. That’s why I was never eager to behave like everyone was behaving in California. I had to learn how to say the four letter words. They wouldn’t come out of my mouth. I had to practice it in the mirror! I had to learn how to do ‘raw’.

    “I wasn’t an angel, don’t get me wrong. I was a li’l rebel all along and an outgoing kid. I was called ‘difficult’. I was a cute little girl until you tried to make me do something I didn’t want to do. Then I became ‘difficult’. That’s how it was put back in the day.

    “So, anyway, I knew that I was different, no doubt. My naiveté has just kept an angel over my shoulder and nothing really bad that I haven’t been able to survive has happened to me. My life has progressed along. That was my background – just like my church upbringing. I have that little angel on my shoulder – and the devil. It’s not a cartoon to me – it’s real! But it’s not scary-spooky, either! It’s just the devil and I’m stronger than that devil. So, there! 

    “When I was doing something wrong, I really had a guilty conscience about it. Whereas, other people didn’t because know that they were doing anything wrong. They didn’t have the God in their life that I had. Anyway, that kept me alive so I just moved on. I just moved forward. I just took it. Isn’t that weird looking back at it? I was only eighteen in California – to make it!”

    When I asked Bonnie if she gained any insight into racism and other issues from the African-American community as she worked in their world, she shared the following insights:

    “I was only fifteen when I was with the Ikettes for a week on the road. They had taken me beyond state lines into Kentucky and all around there. I lasted only a week because of the racism once they (the crowd) found out I was white so I had to come back home. Yeah! It got bad!

    “Nevertheless, it was a lifetime of lessons that I learned. I was with all adults and they all took care of me. I was a little kid and no one abused me. No one has ever abused me! Maybe I have an angel on my shoulder!”

    “You were talking about writing songs back in the day – back to making songs up, see, I didn’t know about publishing and writing and royalties. I knew you got paid but, breaking it down, I had no idea. I only went through eighth grade. So, all that ‘making songs up’, I didn’t even know there was money behind it until after Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. That was such a painful experience that I just pretty much stayed away from it after that. 

    “Then, when I came back here to Nashville, I mean, it was like I had too. I had to go write and I had to make that money. I had nothing. The publishing and everything had been taken away. I had no income. So, I had to and it was the most humiliating, humbling, scary – I felt inappropriate doing the second most intimate thing you can do with a strange man. There I am. I’ve never met this guy before. ‘Hello. Now, go write a song and you’ve got from ten to three o’clock to do it. Try to write two. Here’s a story. Write a song about it.’ That’s not me. That’s how my experience was. I didn’t know it. I would usually have to take them to a musician so that they could put them down because I don’t play enough guitar or piano, either one, to really, actually put it down myself. Then, they would tweak it for me and build it for me and then we’d write a song. So, I call myself a co-writer. I usually write with somebody else, although I have done ‘single writes’ but they blurt right on out – blurt out all at once.

    “But, as far as sitting down in a room from ten to three, it was horrific for me. But I did it! I did it for, like, two years! I hate it! I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to write from ten to three with a strange person about strange things. I write too intimately. It’s like I said, I don’t ‘write’ them, I make them up. They come through me and it’s painful, sometimes, to tell just anybody that. I’d rather stand on a stage by myself and tell five million people than to stand in a room and tell five. Scary.”

    That last comment sparked a question that I hadn’t intended on asking. The concept of being comfortable on a stage with ‘five million people’ staring at me isn’t exactly one that gen’s up a sense of comfort to me. I asked Bonnie why it is that some folks are more comfortable on a stage, facing a huge crowd, than they are in more intimate settings.

    “Because, amongst five thousand people, you can walk out, stand on stage and completely disappear and let your avatar do the work. You leave your body – you surrender your body or your avatar to whatever being – I’ve actually stood next to myself and gave myself cold chills and said, ‘Did I just do that? No, your avatar did. You just surrendered it to me and God came through me and did the work – whoever or whatever.’

    “Amongst five people, it’s so hard to disappear. I mean, I’ve got it now. I can disappear amongst one. It doesn’t matter. When I say, ‘disappear’, I’m saying, ‘my ego, my id. The thing that gets in my way gets out of the way and allows me in. Make sense? It’s safe in here.”

    In 1968, Delaney and Bonnie signed with legendary Memphis record company, Stax Records, releasing their first album, Home, the following year. They were assisted by some great artists such as Leon Russell, Bobby Whitlock, Booker T. Jones, Isaac Hayes and many other musical icons. Because Stax was predominantly an African-American label, I asked Bonnie what it was like for them playing for that label.

    “ . . . things that were going on in those times were in the most positive ways because I was so unique. I was like a little strange monkey. ‘Look at the white girl sing! Can you dig her? She’s GOT to have black in her somewhere!’ They just embraced me. They did – all of the black people. And, I was so young, I would walk around – I was a big girl for my age and well developed – and people thought, ‘Wow! How did she get so brazen?’ Well, I didn’t know I was in danger! I didn’t feel any danger. I felt like I was a glowing light.” She said with a laugh. 

    Continuing, she adds, “Fast forward to when I went to California and met Sly Stone. Wow! I’m twenty years old and I meet my first black militant guy. He had no designs on my ugly white ass other than to make a fool of me in some way. I didn’t know that, though. I had no idea of this. I’m totally color blind! ‘Hi, how ya doin’? Blah, blah, blah” and I sing and it went weird. See, Sly embraced me. You could see through it. Black people saw me. Black people ‘see’ me, I should say, because their demonstrative expressions go with my personality. I am a very loud and demonstrative person. I feel like I’ve made lemonade out of lemons by embracing the black expressions. It’s given me wings.

    “I never even considered that they might think that I ripped them off. It never crossed my mind, ever. How do you rip off feelings? All of my black friends, peers and mentors, they all totally supported me. Etta James calls me ‘Negro’ and I wear that as a badge of merit! She does think there’s blackness in me somewhere!

    “But, seriously, I never run into it (discrimination). Sly is as close as it came and we wrote Don’t Burn Baby together. He and Sam embraced me. That’s who my singing partner was before Delaney. I was dueting R&B with Sly and the Family Stone.

    “With Delaney it was the whole opposite way. He was doing the Shindogs – a Beatles cover type band. Delaney knew all about being famous and all of that kind of stuff. I knew nothing about it. I was just totally a front blues, young woman. Very purist. Judgmental. ‘Yeah, you white guys!’ They had an all white band!”

    When I asked Bramlett if she felt out of place with the Shindogs, she came right back with her characteristic confidence by saying, “I felt that they were out of place, actually! That’s the way I’ve always been. I’ve never been out of place. Everyone else was! Ha! Ha!”

    I knew that Bonnie first met Delaney as she was touring as part of the act, Sam the Soul and Bonnie Lynn. I asked her to tell me about meeting Delaney.

    “They (the Shindogs) were the house band. They were supposed to back me and Sam up but they didn’t want to. They didn’t want to back any girl singers up. I told them that they could just follow me for the next three weeks. I took the opening act who later became Three Dog Night. I’m not an easy act to follow. I wasn’t then, either. I came full-on, guns a blazin’!” She said with her infectious laugh.

    I had read that she married Delaney Bramlett about a week after she met him. As I use that information to set up my next question, Bonnie very politely corrected me on that erroneous factoid.

    “We knew each other but I was mad at him. ‘How dare you back up Donna Loren and not me?’ Of course, the first night they heard me sing, they changed their mind. I told them where they could get off and that they could follow me for the next thirteen days. And they did and we wiped them out every time. When I got off stage, the room got up and left and all of the Shindogs’ girlfriends sat there and watched them.

    “Anyway, little did I know, during all that time, Delaney was blown away by me. He went and got Leon Russell and said, ‘Come and hear her sing!’ He’s bringing all these people in to hear me. I don’t know it. I’m just singin’ my butt off.

    “So, at the end of my three weeks, they still worked there. They had to stay there. So he (Delaney) asked for my number and I gave him the name of the hotel I was staying at. It was like a Holiday Inn called The Magnolia Inn and there was a trillion of them! He calls everyone of them until he found me. He came over and never left.

    “It was very romantic. Very cool. Very righteous. We had so much in common musically but also spiritually – our religion and our upbringing. It was like we were perfect for each other. And when we sang, it was absolute magic from the first note we ever hit together until the last one.”

    Since church was an important part of her life, I asked Bonnie what Delaney’s religious upbringing was as compared to hers.

    “Christian. He was Christian. I think they went to Sunday school and church and prayed. But mine was over the top!” At this point, she speaks metaphorically about the women in her family and religion. I promised not to repeat it but I will say that she had me laughing about it until I cried. Bonnie definitely has a humorous view of things – even serious subjects like family and religion. I guess that’s why I love the lady so much.

    After we both quit laughing and could catch our breath, I picked up on Ms. Bramlett’s comment about the magic between her and Delaney and my observation about the obvious, unique chemistry between them.   Almost before I could finish my sentence, she excitedly asked me if I heard the recently released box set by Rhino Records entitled, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends on Tour with Eric Clapton. For the rock enthusiast, it’s a must have. It’s comprised of four discs that houses 52 tracks delivering over three hours of previously unreleased performances. Other performers jamming with Delaney and Bonnie are Eric Clapton, Dave Mason, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon, Bobby Whitlock, Jim Price, Bobby Keys, Tex Johnson and Rita Coolidge.

    Bonnie gushes with enthusiasm as she says, “Oh my word! I can’t believe it! I played Gimme Some Lovin’ with Bobby Whitlock while I was driving? I had to pull the car over. I-had-to-pull-over! I stopped the vehicle because I was rockin’ so hard, I was a danger on the road! I really had to pull over. It blows my mind! It’s so awesome. Try to get it!”

    As I said at the beginning of this piece, during her years with Delaney, they worked with some of the most iconic names in rock history. From the outside looking in, there seemed to me that they had a sincere camaraderie among all of the rockers back in those days. I asked Bonnie if they fostered it or did it foster them. In other words, who-drew-who into all of that?

    “Well, you know what? I’d like to think that I had a little something to do with that strictly because I never was famous and I’d come from East St. Louis where everybody fits in with everybody. It would’ve been rude for an artist to walk in and you not ask them if they want to play. I mean, people bring their own mouth piece and they walk in with their instruments in a soft case which right away says that it’s coming out of the case – they want to play. Anybody that carries an instrument in a soft case plays it. It doesn’t sit around a lot. It’s not safe – if it’s in a soft case – to just sit around. So, you could tell who’s who by what case they carried.

    “I think I brought that to the table because at that point in time, everybody was really pretty much doing their own songs. So, not everybody new it, right? So, we always did a couple of songs somebody could sit in on. How that manifested, I don’t know. It was totally agreed upon. Although it was my accustomed behavior – and I thought I brought that to the table that it would be kind of rude not to ask them to play – I brought at least that. But I think that the rest of it fostered us.

    “I tell you what Delaney brought to the table on that. It wasn’t exclusive that you had to be a star; you just had to want to play. If you were the young gun in town and you showed up at our concert and you came in and said that you wanted to come in and sit in on the jam song, you were welcome on that stage. He didn’t care if it was Eric Clapton or Joe Schmoe. It didn’t matter to Delaney. He brought that.”

    I asked Ms. Bonnie if that sense of community still existed or has it changed.

    “I don’t know. I haven’t been able to get into that kind of camaraderie again. Delaney and I wanted to be like Laurel and Hardy. We wanted to be united at all times and when we would be divided, it would be private and personal. No matter if I agreed with him or not, I would stand by his side and he by mine. We never made decisions apart. Sometimes the time would come when the other one wasn’t there, something offensive would happen – even if we didn’t agree with each other, we would talk about it together. We’d fight about that later. In public, we would stand united. That’s how I think the camaraderie came about because we did that. 

    “We fought. We’re infamous for fighting, don’t get us wrong. But, boy, don’t try to step in between us because we’ll both be on ya! That’s us! Too bad that the band had to see us fight but we were married. I wasn’t just a singer in the band. That was my husband, you know what I mean? We were all living together on the road. There was no privacy so we fought. 

    “Delaney wasn’t used to women behavin’ like me! They (other women) minded him. He batted them beautiful brown eyes and sang a pretty song with that southern accent and women would go to the enth degree for that man and I would not move a muscle. I would just hit my note and sing right with him. I would not ‘mind’ him. I wouldn’t mind my mom. I wouldn’t mind my dad. I still don’t mind. I just don’t mind. What can I say?”

    Referring back to her earlier self-description, she adds, “I’m difficult!”

    With the release of the box set, I asked Bonnie if there was any chance of any sort of reunion with any of her old friends. Alluding to some extenuating legal procedures that still need to run their course, she offers, “I wish this (current legal processes that must be cleared first) would be over so that we could do that. We’re trying to put something together . . .”.

    Suddenly, Ms. Bramlett stops and corrects herself.

    “I say ‘we’ – how dare me take credit for anything other than being supportive of Michele (Bramlett). She’s the one that’s worked her buns off trying to put something together that would allow a reunion of some sort to happen. Wouldn’t that be cool?”

    After a marriage has been dissolved, especially a marriage with the infamous fights that she referenced earlier, Bonnie is the epitome of class and grace as she addresses what she would ever have to say about Delaney in a book she’s planning on writing.

    “I’m not going to say or write anything about my husband who fathered those three beautiful girls. I will not do that. It’s not in me to do it. Delaney and I didn’t even get a divorce for 25 years because we didn’t want to spend our money – our children’s inheritance – on lawyers fighting each other. Those were our dreams for our girls.”

    I was struck by what Bonnie just laid on me. In a day and age (even back in the 70’s) when parents seem to think more about their own desires and not about the potential impact of their actions on their kids, Delaney and Bonnie made sure their actions did not negatively impact their minor children. Let that one sink in for a few minutes. That truly speaks to the pureness of their parental hearts.

    Later in the conversation, Bonnie shared more insight into the total selflessness of the family’s arrangement that spoke to the love that the Bramlett’s had for their girls.

    “When I married Delaney, Michele was five years old. We started picking her up on the weekends. That’s why Patty (Stanley, Michele’s mom) and I are so together because we always cared about the best for our girls. We even got a house together when the girls couldn’t be separated so that we could do it. I couldn’t take care of them by myself and she couldn’t take care of them by herself, so we just did it together. The daughters needed to be together. They were in church at that time. They could’ve been on the street doin’ crack but they were in the Open Bible church. They were doing the ‘alternative proms’. They were being good girls and they needed each other. Delaney was calling the youth pastor ‘Jim Jones’ because they were learning stuff and then they would go home and see what Daddy was doing and they would go, ‘Oh! Wrong, Dad! Sin!’” The memories of those times bring a motherly laugh to her voice.

    My pre-interview research of Delaney and Bonnie reminded me of several things I had forgotten about regarding their career together. One such thing was their performance at theTexas International Pop Festival in 1969 – two weeks after Woodstock. The location is a mere 20 minutes from where I now live. They performed on day two of the three day festival. Others who performed that same day were Santana, Chicago Transit Authority, Sam & Dave, James Cotton Blues Band, Led Zeppelin, Incredible String Band, B.B. King and Bonnie’s old friend, Herbie Mann. 

    I asked Miss Bonnie what her memories are of that festival and if she got to connect with Mann. She starts off by sharing how she and Herbie Mann first met.

    “We met at the Quartet Trade Inn back in the day. He had come to the Trade Inn, across the street from where I performed and I would come in and sit in with them. It was a sit-in thing like that. It wasn’t like we were butt bumping friends. So, when Delaney and I were playing in Central Park, Herbie Mann’s apartment was nearby and he could hear us. He, quick, got his clothes on and came down and on-stage, jamming with us before that song was over. We’ve got pictures of it. So, by the time we got to the festival, it was kind of cool.”

    “Let’s see, who landed in the helicopter (at the festival)? Oh, it was Led Zeppelin! I saw them land in a helicopter and I was so impressed. I had never landed in a helicopter and I wanted to then. Now, I don’t want to but I wanted to then! They were way bigger than us. We were doing good to have the bus! Ha! Ha!

    “The first time we played with Led Zeppelin was at the Fillmore East. I went right into their dressing room and said, ‘Which one of y’all is Led?’ I swear to gawd I did! We called them (the WWI airships) dirigibles! What do I know about a ‘zeppelin’?” 

    After we quit laughing and had wiped the tears out of our eyes, we continued chatting about the Texas International Pop Festival with me asking if that was the largest crowd she and Delaney performed in front of or were there bigger ones.

    “Oh, yeah, bigger, bigger. Toronto. TheAtlanta Pop Festival was humongous. I don’t know if that was bigger than ‘Texas’ or not but, you know, big or bigger? After the first 20 rows, it’s just an ocean of people. I don’t know. There were a LOT of people there! It was outdoors. Dontcha just miss the outdoor festivals? Talkin’ about bein’ an old fogy, man, I’d bring my rockin’ chair out there and listen!”

    Earlier, Ms. Bramlett downplayed her skill and contributions in the area of songwriting. However, her hand in songs like Superstar (the song that Bonnie proudly reminds me that Ruben Studdard sang to win American Idol) have contributed heavily to allow them to stand the test of time. I asked her why she thought those songs have the “legs” that they do.

    “They’re simple, pure feelings that everybody has. Not stylized. Not ‘word merchanted’, you know? It’s just pure. ‘Don’t you remember you told me you loved me’? Wow, does that cover a lot of ground! 

    “All the kids on stage (that she’s worked with), they want to learn the classics! They don’t want to learn what’s going on right now. You got me. I don’t know. I don’t listen to what goes on (musically) right now because I keep hearing the same song over and over.

    “I’ll tell you what I think. This is coming to me and through me right now. I’ve never said this before. This is amazing. Because we were ‘audio’ as opposed to ‘visual’ back then, we didn’t have video to dictate to us what the song was about. The song could be about anything YOU wanted it to be about. So, it was all an ‘inside job’. We did our own videos in our head and connected. ‘Strawberry Fields” were strawberries – at least, to some of us! Ha! Ha! To other folks, ‘Strawberry Fields’ represented Seconals. 

    “We have the freedom of mind. We still control the music in our minds. It was still our music. Now it’s their music and we get to listen to it. That’s the difference: kids want to own music again. They want it to be theirs.”

    Bonnie Bramlett witnessed a lot of changes in the music business over the years and also helped foster some of those changes. I asked Bonnie, as I do almost every iconic artist I interviewed, what the biggest positive change she’s witnessed in the business.

    “The women in the business. The powerful women. Writers. Singers. Men have always towered. I call them the golden stallions – Waylon and the boys – they’re the wonders. The girls? They’ve just been few and far between. Now, a lot of them want to sing ‘cookie cutter’ style and they’re all alike. But, if you see something workin’, you want in the door! You’ve got to go in familiar but once you get in the door, then you take the music – you take them somewhere. But there are a lot of them that aren’t going to take us anywhere. There’s a few out there that are. The chick that does The House That Built Me? Miranda Lambert? Ah! Miranda Lambert! Girl! She’s like Billy Joe Shaver!

    “That’s an amazing song and the one before that, as well! White Liar? Oh, my word! She’s got a great sense of humor. She’s got an incredible depth. She’s going to take it somewhere. I truly believe that and she coupled up with another one who just has fun. He’s going to take it somewhere. But these guys can write by recipe. They can write like that. You can’t slam it. It’s what’s happening.”

    At this point, Bonnie dropped a heavy opinion on me that caught me by complete surprise.

    “Rock and roll is going to die, okay? That’s the truth. We say, ‘rock and roll will never die!’ Yeah, it will.”

    After sufficiently sobering me up with that comment, she continues sharing her thoughts about some of the new talent that are out there, “But, another girl that’s a monster songwriter is Maia Sharp – Randy Sharp’s daughter? Oh, my word! Get her work! She wrote this one called Sober. I have got to cut this song. It says, ‘Sorry, but I’m just a little bit sober.’ It’s about the struggle of becoming sober and being in a sober body. You don’t know how to really do that. Nothing is hurting you now but you want to medicate because that’s what you’re used to doing. It’s such a phenomenal song! The fact that she can communicate that . . .

    “I just did a song on my last CD – my ‘swan’ CD – that’s called Some of My Best Friends. It’s about some of my best friends are black; some of my best friends are gay; some of my best friends are gone and I still miss them. It’s a song of feelings that no one wants to really touch. The industry would never cut that song. That’s why I pretty much knew that it was my swan song.”

    I asked Bonnie the flip side of my previous question: What’s the biggest negative change that’s happened in the music business?

    “Oh, the fear level. Oh, my word! You can smell fear in the air here (in Nashville). Even if you have a hit record, you’re terrified that you’re not going to have the next one to be one. There is so many of them and some of them aren’t going to make it. Some of them aren’t going to last. For some, it’s going to kick their butts and hurt ‘em bad because they don’t know how to be famous.

    “Now anxiety, on the other hand, and stress, you need that in order to accomplish things. It’s okay to be stressed to a degree. It will make you work. A bow is stressed and you let it go and an arrow will go a thousand miles if you want it to. That’s good stress. We have to have it and know how to use it and the adrenalin instead of feeling fear and stage fright. It’s never going to go away so let’s turn it into something else. Let’s turn it into energy. Turn it into performance. Trust me, that’s what I have to teach. I can show you how to do that.”

    Reverting back to the subject of stress, Bonnie continues, “I’m so blessed! I mean, I could tell you a nightmare story but so can everybody else. I’m certainly wasn’t that Mexican mother who was tryin’ to raise five kids by herself and she doesn’t speak English and she’s trying to make it in Nashville. THAT’s a hard life. I had my stressful times but they were in a limo, okay? Don’t cry for me, Argentina!

    “Believe me, I have a sad story but who doesn’t? You can’t go on that. We survived that. We’re seeds we will grow!” She concludes, again, with her infectious laugh.

    I asked Bonnie what she would do, if she was made Czarina of the music business, to fix it.

    She giggles as I ask her and her answer reminded me of what Liz Phair said when I asked her, basically, the same thing. “You know what? I just don’t think it needs fixin’! I think it’s in change and change is very uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it will fix itself. It’s the arts! It’s music! It’s in a transition, if you will, because of computers and communication and all this stuff – it’s in technical knowledge – we’re in a serious transition and I don’t think there is a fix. So, we just have to see what it changes into. We just have to go with it.

    “If we have to make our own individual records and sell them individually one by one and get our own dollar, well, maybe that’s what we have to do! But it’s doable! You can do it! The only thing I hope doesn’t change is the enthusiasm of the young people and artist - that they will have dreams that they’ll one day change the world – and they can! If you don’t believe me, listen to Eric Clapton!”

    I shifted the conversation back to when I first met her in 1981 and the release of her contemporary Christian music (CCM) album, Step By Step. Because of my very little bit of background (and a whole lot of interest) in that business, I was very curious what her experience was like.

    “They slammed that door right in my face. They slammed that door tight!” Then, quoting an old gospel song, she continues, “‘Just as I am’ is not true – in the music industry – being Christian or not. I was told that I didn’t talk enough like a Christian. I’m from five generations of gospel singers, okay? I can do the ‘gospel speak’ if they wanted to hear that. Only, it’s just not how I spoke and that’s not the message that God chose me to carry. My message was, ‘Go learn the language. They can’t understand you. If they don’t understand what you’re saying, learn their language back out on the streets.’ On that gospel album, that’s my message. That’s my ministry. I fought and I fought. I’m rough. I am rough as a cob, no doubt about it. I’m not going to be having high tea with you anytime soon, probably.

    “Nevertheless, I’m a messenger. My message comes directly from God, when it comes, and it comes out of this avatar’s mouth. If I’ll stand aside and let it come out, it’s a good message. It might be a little rough around the edges but maybe the person that needs to hear it needs to hear it in a familiar voice. That’s mine. That’s all I can say for it. I will not make excuses for my message. I don’t wear a mask. I don’t have a mask. Therefore, you get to see me warts and all. I’m one of the good guys.”

    Almost two hours had flown by as we both realized that our schedules dictated that we wrap up our chat. Before we hung up, I had to ask Bonnie if she - back when she and Delaney were writing and singing those classic songs – had any idea in her mind that they were creating history that people would say, “Hey, these two need to be in a Hall of Fame”.

    “No. Not me. I don’t know, maybe Delaney did. I can’t really talk for him because his head was in a totally different place. No, I wasn’t thinking that way. My whole thing about the Hall of Fame – bless their hearts – the girls want that for their daddy. I guess that’s what Delaney wanted, I don’t know. That’s not what I want. I don’t care about no ‘hall of fame’. If they ever make a ‘Hall of Great’, I’m all for me in it. But the Hall of Fame? Eh.  But, you know what? I’m backing these girls!

    “You can read any interview I’m in, I quack about that famous stuff. People say, ‘you’ve done all that stuff, why aren’t you famous?’ and I tell them, ‘Well, I guess I’m just lucky!’ I worked really hard not to be famous. So, the Hall of Fame is the last place I want to be. Nevertheless, if my girls want Delaney to be there, there’s hardly a way that he can be without me. So, whatever. I’m supportive of Michele and what she wants. I’d do anything for her on this because it’s so important to her and her sisters. And, you know what? I believe that Michele can pull it off if she wants to pull it off and I’m going to support her with everything I have.”

    Incidentally, if you would like to add your voice to the rising chorus of voices, asking that Delaney and Bonnie be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you can submit your petition by clickinghere.

    Running parallel to the induction campaign is a documentary by Jaesen Kanter (with Michele Bramlett) about Delaney and Bonnie. The film is entitled Matilija Magic and details the history and impact of the Bramletts while rock and roll history was being made as well as how their influence is still being felt today. As is often the case with independent films, financing the film is always a challenge. Consequently, Jaesen and Michele are still looking for contributions of any size to help finance the project. Those donors, large and small, are making their valuable contributions by visitingwww.matilijamagic.com. 

    In the spirit that made Delaney and Bonnie legendary among their musician friends, the proceeds from Matilija Magic will be directed to a related project that Michele Bramlett is heading up: The Poor Elijah Foundation. Its charter is to help musicians to learn the ways of the music business as well as develop strong business ethics within the music industry. According to its website,PoorElijahFoundation.org, “Through mentoring, workshops and seminars, PEF will take the working musician and educate them in various aspects of the music industry, e.g. engineering, management, publishing, money management, contract negotiations, and musical education to elevate the art of the artist fostering skills to become more proficient in their craft. PEF also provides financial relief to the working musician.”

    With such an aggressive mission, I asked Bonnie what mistakes she would have avoided had the foundation been around when she was starting out in the business.

    “Hopefully, it would’ve taught me how to count my money, for one thing. There’s more to counting than rhythm. It can teach how much money you are capable of making because I didn’t even know there was that much money, never mind that I made it! Therefore, I didn’t miss it. It was easy to steal from me. I got my first royalty check three years ago.”

    As the second hands were ticking their last seconds we scheduled for our chat, I ended the conversation with a two part question: How did Bonnie hope Delaney would be remembered and how did SHE want to be remembered?

    “I hope Delaney is remembered with his guitar, singing. He was so charming. He would pick up a guitar and just charm you and he would make everyone feel, individually, like they’re the most important person in his life. He would make you feel like you had all of his attention for that time. I want them to remember him with his guitar, singing - the most charming individual and when he sings you his songs, you’re just all there. He had the smile that would never stop. When he was good, he was very good. He was that. I want everyone to remember good things.

    “I want to be remembered the same way! Hopefully, I’ve done good. Hopefully, remember my good and forgive my bad, please?”

    Keep up with Bonnie at her website, www.bonniebramlett.com.

  • Posted November, 2014

         

    I was first turned on to Delbert McClinton almost thirty-four years ago when the Texas born singer came out with his smash hit, “Giving It Up For Your Love.”  I mean, who can forget his memorable performance of that song on Saturday Night Live with the lovely and talented Bonnie Bramlett singing backup for him?  Absolutely amazing!

    Still recording, touring and performing for fans all over America, the man’s music is as fresh and relevant as ever.  I recently caught up with Mr. McClinton by phone to talk about his current tour, the music business and his plans for the future.

    Answering my question regarding how things are in his world these days, Delbert dropped a bit of a bombshell on me regarding his health.

    “Well, I had a triple by-pass in April. It was successful. I didn’t have any heart damage. I knew something was wrong. So I listened to my body and they caught it. I had a ninety-five percent blockage in the main artery. He told me that I was just a breath away from being dead. So, that happened and that’s great. I’m back and totally recovered and ready for another fifty years.”
    Naturally, this all begged the question as to whether or not this experienced changed McClinton’s perspective on life, relationships, career, content of songs or anything else.

    “Yeah, it’s a life-changing event regardless of how it goes down. Like I said, I was very lucky. I was already in the process of recovery before I really even knew what I had. I mean, it happened so quick!  Heart surgery these days, they make it seem like it’s no more difficult than changing a tire on a little girl’s bicycle. I went in there. They operated one day. I was walking around on the third day. On the fifth day, I was out of there with big ol’ heart shaped pillow to hug and, boy, I was glad to have it! It becomes your best and only friend for a short time – especially right after surgery because, if you cough, you need to have a pillow to hold you together. Ha! Ha!

    “But, you know, that didn’t go on for long. It was just a matter of just a couple of weeks. And, yes, it did change my perspective on an awful lot of things. First of all, you realize that it doesn’t always happen to someone else. That’s a pretty big game-changer when you have to face the fact that you almost died from it. It gets your attention. But, at the same time, I feel – I don’t feel twenty years younger but I feel a whole lot better! My voice is better than it’s been since I was a teenager. I don’t know. I could go on and on about the aftermath of having heart surgery but the bottom line is I’m sure glad I didn’t die! Ha! Ha!

    “I mean, I don’t mind dying. We’re all gonna die. But I wasn’t ready to die. Of course, few people are but I was certainly aware of the fact that, hey! I’m in trouble!  So, it changes the whole way you think. I feel more at ease now because I know I’ve had something done that I corrected a major mess. Other than that, I’m relatively healthy. Life is good and I’m moving on.”
    Putting a pleasant, humorous bow on the subject, Delbert said, “That’s the main thing that’s happened to me. That’s this year’s big deal. Ha! Ha!”
    Another reason why I wanted to interview McClinton was I had learned that, as part of yet another busy touring season, he was going to be playing in my area - at the Bijou Theater in Knoxville, Tennessee. I asked if he had performed there before.

    “Oh, yeah, I’ve played at the Bijou before – several times! I love old theaters and that’s a good one!”

    I asked what if McClinton’s performances have changed due to his surgery and what can fans expect from shows during this tour.

    “It has changed but as far as trying to describe that, I don’t know how I would do that. I can’t not be different because something major occurred! I can breathe deeper than I’ve been able to breath in years. I don’t know, man, I don’t know. It’s all still pretty supernatural to me, in a way. In the last three years, my saxophone player had a heart attack while we were on the road and died after got him to the hospital. Then, my trumpet player had a heart attack on a day off while we were out. We took him to the hospital in Richmond, Virginia, and, after several hours, the doctor came walking out and said, ‘Everything’s fine.’  I saw him before he went in there and he looked awful! To see somebody walking after you’ve seen somebody that you just knew wasn’t going to make it . . . and he did!  He’s back and healthy.

    “You know, you gotta live every minute like it’s the last. It can be over at any second - like blowin’ out a candle. That’s how easy it is. So, with that in mind, I’m having a lot of fun because I nearly wasn’t here! Ha! Ha! I don’t want to ride on that because I’m not the only one in the world who’s ever had heart surgery but you asked me what’s going on and that has occupied my every thought for the last several months. I’m just a very fortunate guy. I’ve got a lot more music in me. I’m making preparations now for another record. I’ve almost got enough songs to do a double album. We’re in the process of putting that together.”

    Is keeping the road fresh and non-monotonous a challenge for Delbert?
    “Well, it doesn’t necessarily wear me down. I love to go out and make music. I hate the hotels. I hate the goin’ there. If I never walked into another hotel room in my life, it would be too soon. They’re all the same and it comes with the lunch, you know? If you’re gonna do this, that’s where you’re gonna stay.
     
    “I don’t work as much as I used to. I usually work two to three days a week. That’s hard working but it takes up four days a week – with the comin’ and the goin’. So, I’m at home ‘bout as much as I’m on the road and I like that. I don’t spring back as quick as I used to. I’m real good for two or three nights but if I’ve got to do five or six nights a week – I won’t say I couldn’t do it but I sure as hell don’t wanna do it because it’s a young man’s game out here doing this. I’m so fortunate that I have a career that allows me to not have to work all the time. I’m sittin’ pretty, man!”

    When I asked McClinton what has changed, positively and negatively, about touring, he replied, “The road never changes. It just never changes. Every time I go back out, it’s just like I left it. Fortunately, again, I have a band – we’re all really good, close friends. Nobody’s a jerk. We don’t have to baby sit anybody. Nobody’s an abuser. We’re all adults and we enjoy making music. That’s the premier thing that we do.

    “I spent a lot of years – a lot of ‘em – being that guy, myself. But that was a long time ago. I’ve got no time for fools or jerks. There’s no room for that. When you’re closed up in a tube with a bunch of guys, one sour apple can screw up the vibes all the way through the place and nobody needs that kind of behavior. But there are an awful lot of jerks out there. It’s a skull orchard out there and they’re just dumb as a rock, a lot of ‘em and you just have to deal with that, you know? I’m certainly not sayin’ everybody but there are those the shade never comes down and says, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t do. Maybe you shouldn’t say that.’ So, you’re on a pivot, ready to get out of the way all the time with some people.

    “An example of the kind of people I’m talking about: We played in Vegas once and the shortcut back to my room was straight through the

         

    casino. I kinda closed my eyes and turned invisible and headed off through the casino. Some woman at a slot machine saw me. ‘THERE’s DELBERT!’ Running over there and grabbed me and was hollering at everybody, ‘Look! I got Delbert!’ You know? That’s just really squirrely. Ha! Ha!”

    Our conversation shifted over to the state of the music business and record companies in general.  McClinton’s comments echoed what I’ve heard from other great artists.

    “I don’t even think that there are such things as record companies any more. The thing that’s so incredibly difficult about it - and I don’t know how in the world they’ll ever stop it because you can’t. A good friend of mine is a writer and that’s pretty much all he does is be a songwriter. He’s written a lot of hits for people. Two years ago, his income went to one quarter of what it usually was because, once you record a song now, the minute you let it out, everybody’s got it. Anybody who wants it has got it. You can’t make any money. The only way to make any money is go perform.

    “As far as making records, so many bands today give their records away just to create a fan base. Fortunately for me, I’ve got a fan base – a fantastic fan base. They’d take a bullet for me. That’s pretty special. I would hate to be a young guy trying to start out in this world today because, in the first place, I know anybody who starts out in this has the biggest dreams in the world. So many of them have confidence that will just scorch everybody else. But that’s not enough, unfortunately. You’ve gotta have more than that. The want-to is ninety-nine percent of it. The being-able-to is the other ninety-nine percent of it. It’s a hard way to make a living.

    “Back when I started doing this, everybody in the world wasn’t in the business. But, today, it’s unbelievable, man. Everybody’s in it and, as hard as I try – well, maybe that’s not the right words because I don’t try that hard. I don’t listen to an awful lot of the new music. I’ve got a young daughter and she brings music around for me to listen to. But she grew up with me and I’d been feeding her Hank Williams and Ray Charles so I think she’s going to be okay. She’s got a good head on her as far as music goes.”

    As our chat shifted gears, during the transition Delbert quoted Bob Dylan: “A lot of things get in the way when you try to do something right.” Both of us being Dylan fans, we chatted about the legend for a few minutes.

    “It pisses me off every time I hear him say something because I go, ‘Damn! I wish I’d said that!’ He is the guy and always will be. He’s a phenomena that will keep people forever wondering, ‘What the hell?’ His word-smithing is just phenomenal!”

    Still on a roll, talking about other great songsmiths, Delbert segued into talking about another artist.

    “A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a Johnny Mercer CD that Clint Eastwood did called ‘The Dream’s On Me.’ I grew up listening to Johnny Mercer. He wrote ‘Moon River,” ‘Jeepers Creepers’ and ‘G.I. Jive.’ He was the voice of the Forties! He’s another tunesmith that puts words together that’s just unbelievable!”
    McClinton then drew a comparison to today’s talent.

    “I was reading an article here a while back. I try to stay away from things like this but Kanye West was running his mouth again. I think, ‘My god! How can anybody be so self-centered and stupid?’  He seems to think he’s God. He said that. I read that he said he’s a god. I’ve already had most of my life and I know where that heads to. It heads to a lot of really confused, uninformed, ultimately pitiful people. Not always but that’s the route, when you go to thinking that you’re the only one, that’s when they start heading for that brick wall. That ol’ brick wall is abrupt. I hit it three or four times and it’s a hard one to get past. First of all, you’ve got to admit that you’re wrong. For a lot of people, that’s a difficult thing to do.” 

    I’ve counted 28 studio albums that Delbert has recorded n(ot counting compilation albums). I’ve listened to his latest CD, “Blind, Crippled and Crazy” and absolutely love the amazing, “Just When I Need You The Most.” I said as much to McClinton, to which he responded, “I agree. I agree. And that record did absolutely nothing (sales wise)! It got a lot of great reviews. I think it was a great record. It was a lot of fun. Glen and I always have so much fun singing together. When we went back to do this, it was like we’d never stopped. We do it so naturally, it’s just like fallin’ off a log. We don’t even have to try to sing together. We don’t really sing harmonies together. We just sing different parts together. Because of it, it makes everything go up on two wheels every once in a while which I think is exhilarating.”

    You’ll recall that, earlier in the interview, Mr. McClinton mentioned that he planned on going into the studio in the near future. I circled back to that comment and asked him if he had any idea how he was going to go with it.

    “It’s going to go every which way. I’ve been writing with some different people. Al Anderson and I have written two or three songs together that are of a Dixieland style which is really, really cool. We’ve got three good songs, at least. My bass player and guitar player have been working together and we’ve got four great songs that are different for me. I don’t play anything real well. I play the pull and jerk method on the guitar – just enough to do my songs. But when I sat down to write with these guys, they are professional musicians. They know more than three chords. So we sat down together and started pushing stuff around and it enabled me to sing and play like I don’t ordinarily get to. When I write songs, I usually don’t write them with more than about three chords. Ha! Ha!

    “So, stretching out in this way has allowed me to explore whole different areas of vocal style because, now, I’ve got somebody to write with that can bring that to the table, you know? So, we’ve been having a lot of fun doing that. And I’ve just written a lot of songs over the last several years. The other day I was lookin’ and I think I have sixteen new songs. If I had about twenty, I’d put out a double album. We’re working on that and it might just happen.

    “But, in answer to your original question, it’s going to be varying, different styles, from blues to jazz to a kind of New Orleans/Dixieland kind of thing. So, so far, that’s a bunch of the feel that’ll be on this record.”

         

    When I told Delbert that I love the blues and how he sings them and that I can’t wait to hear the new album where he’ll sing some more, he replied with the humor that he peppered our chat with by saying, “Well, you’re gonna have to.”
    What hasn’t Delbert done that he would like to do, career-wise?

    “Make a s*** load of money.”

    There’s that humor, again.

    “Nah, I’m just kiddin’. I’ve got no reason to complain. I’ve done very well. It took a long time to get there. I didn’t make any money in this business until I was fifty-one years old. So, the last ten or twelve years, for me, have been premier time as far as me being a stable commodity and that’s a great place to be, man. I work as much as I want to. You can’t beat that! Ha! Ha! It’s as good as it gets!”

    In answer to my question about who he would like to work with but hasn’t yet, Delbert replied, “I would’ve liked to have sung with Tina Turner. I think it would’ve been great fun to do something with her. But I don’t know, any more, you know? I really don’t. I have, all of my life, been singularly obsessed with what I’m trying to do that I miss so much music in my life. I would not recognize a Grateful Dead song. I know everybody else in the world lived and breathed by the Grateful Dead. I don’t know anything they ever did. I mean, if you played me something, I would recognize it. But, as far as knowing who they were and what they did? No idea. And there are so many people that just went right past me for whatever reason.

    “The only reason I bring that up is that I think it’s unusual that I was so preoccupied with I’m not even sure what. I was preoccupied with what I was trying to do that everything else went by like a sign on the highway. I can’t talk to anybody about music, about who played that lick, about who did this except in a small area of music. I spent my whole life living in this area with soft edges.”

    Is there anyone relatively “new” that’s catching McClinton’s attention in the music world?

    “The last person that I remember hearing that really pulled me out of wherever I was and got my attention was Maroon 5. Fantastic! Fantastic band! Adam Levine, he’s an impressive guy. You can’t not recognize that those guys are doing well and bringing something new.

    “Here’s the other and this will probably blow your mind. It blew my mind. Lady Gaga is amazing! You need to check her out because she is real talent. There’s just no denying that, if you give her a chance – I mean, good god!  She’s a power house, man! She and Tony Bennett did an album together and it came in at number one! Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. They are number one! He is amazing, of course. Since I’ve become a fan of hers – I’ve not heard the record yet but I have no doubt that it’s great.”

    I had read that Delbert McClinton hosted the “Sandy Beaches Cruise” each year and asked him to tell me about it.

    “This January will be the twenty-first year we’ve done it. It’s one week in the Caribbean with singers, songwriters, pony tricks and fire eaters and such and the music never stops. It goes from ten-thirty or eleven in the morning to five-thirty in the morning. People can sign up at 1-800-Delbert or Delbert.com.”

    As to what is on McClinton’s career radar for the next year or so, he says, “Ha! Ha! Well, for the next year, I’ve got a record to make, which is always exciting. As far as whatever else, if I could just keep doing what I’m doing right now until I don’t want to do it any more, I’ll be a big winner.”

    When Delbert steps off the tour bus for the final time and has gone to that great gig in the sky, how do he want to be remembered and what does he hope his legacy will be?

    “Oh, man! That’s just fantasy, isn’t it? Well, when I hang it up, I hope it’s because I’ve dropped dead on stage because that would be the best way in the world to go out. Of course, you can’t pick that. I don’t know how to answer that question because it could be a real sappy answer if I’m not careful and I don’t want to have a sappy answer. When I’m done, I’m done. The last thing in the world I’d want to do is to have to answer questions like that anymore.”

  • mcclinton delbert2016Photo by Randy Patterson

    Delbert McClinton
    Bijou Theatre – Knoxville, TN
    December 9, 2016

    For the third December in a row, it was a privilege to catch the great Delbert McClinton and his well-seasoned band at the historic Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. It’s almost become a personal Christmas tradition, of sorts. In fact, by now, it’s almost like heading over to Delbert’s house and listening to him and the band light it up musically.

    Each and every musician was superb, including McClinton’s harmonica playing – which never fails to be top-shelf. The guitarists played off of each other as effortlessly and fluidly as Richards and Wood or Perry and Whitford. Long-time sax player, Dana Robbins, still blew the crowd away with her incredible playing. Judging by the crowd's reaction, to each of her solos, it wouldn’t have hurt their feelings to have listened to her all night (not to discount the rest of the gang, of course). Being the class act that he is, Delbert gladly shared the spotlight with all of his band members – much to the crowd’s delight.

    Fans were thrilled to hear many of their favorite hits as well as a couple of tunes from his soon-to-be-released (January 27th) CD, Prick Of The Litter (he’s accepting pre-orders now). McClinton devotees will no doubt purchase tickets for next year’s show as soon as they’re available. If you’ve never seen Delbert McClinton in concert, you’re missing out on a real treat. You can learn moreof what’s going on in Delbert’s world by clicking on over to Delbert.com.

  • Delbert McClinton

    December 4, 2015

    Bijou Theater

    Knoxville, TN

     

    Photo by Randy Patterson

         

    Delbert McClinton’s Friday night show at the Bijou Theater was one for the record books. 

    Opening act, Alysa Bonagura, has become a new favorite of Boomerocity. Consider her one of music’s best kept secrets. If you know her work nowhere else, you will most likely have heard her “I Make My Own Sunshine” that was used in commercials for Lowe’s. Hear that song once and it sticks in your mind (and brightens your outlook) for quite awhile.

    Check this girl out and keep an eye on her.

    When Delbert hit the stage, he and his tight band hit the audience with entertaining energy. Fun, engaging, nostalgic, McClinton often had the capacity crowd on their feet and dancing. 

    As always, McClinton gave the crowd what they wanted by serving up all sorts of favorites and with an energy that would’ve given the uninitiated the impression that the songs were new and fresh to him and the band. 

    A new Boomerocity favorite by McClinton is a tune he released back in 1997, “Sending Me Angels” and has now been bought and downloaded into the Boomerocity jukebox from iTunes.

    Of course, you never go wrong catching a show at the beautiful and historic Bijou Theater. There’s not a bad seat in the house and the acoustics are magnificent. 

    If you’ve never seen Delbert McClinton in concert, you’re missing out on true musical genius and one of the most fun nights you can ever experience.

  • Delbert McClinton
    December 5, 2014
    Bijou Theater
    Knoxville, TN

    Photo by James R. Patterson

         

    One of the artists who has been on my concert bucket list for a very long time has been the great Delbert McClinton. What a personal thrill it was for me to be able to not only catch this legendary performer in concert Friday night, but to meet him in person. He's as gracious and personable in person as he is on stage. The man is a class act all the way.

    Yeah, I was a little star struck.

    Delbert and the band were a tight, well-oiled machine, delivering a string of familiar tunes from his long, impressive career and the crowd loved every second of it. They showed it buy being on their feet from the git go.

    The audience cheered Delbert through songs like “Old Weakness,” “New York City,” “Right To Be Wrong,” “Going Back To Louisiana,” “Leap Of Faith,” and his huge hit, “Givin’ It Up For Your Love” (my personal favorite).

    I don’t know if this was staged or spontaneous but a group of about ten women climbed up on stage during “Givin’ It Up For Your Love” and started dancing with Delbert and the band. It was a hoot to watch.

    If you ever get a chance to catch one of Delbert’s shows, I encourage you to do so. He will not disappoint!