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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

BLUESDAY

(Excerpted from the Austin American Statesman online obit with added Chan Chandler commentary in bold.)

Blues legend Clifford Antone dies. Founder of legendary club welcomed genre's greats to Austin.

A giant, an institution, a generous soul whose obsessive love of the blues helped make this college town a nationally known hot spot for live music is gone. The news shot through the air Tuesday afternoon like a stinging lead guitar: Clifford Antone is dead. He was 56.

"I feel like the heart of Austin music has been ripped out," said drummer Chris Layton, (Double Trouble, Storyville, Arc Angels) whose former boss Stevie Ray Vaughan honed his craft at Antone's first nightclub, which he opened at Sixth and Brazos streets in 1975, before Sixth Street became an entertainment district.

A native of Port Arthur, Antone opened the club so he could see all his favorites before they passed on. The steady stream of legends included Muddy Waters, Albert King, Albert Collins, Sunnyland Slim and John Lee Hooker. Antone paid the acts well, often out of his own pocket, and earned a reputation around the world as someone who genuinely cared more about the music than the money.

He backed his affinity with an encyclopedic knowledge of the blues...

"Clifford loved to book the big names of the blues," recalled musician Conni Hancock, "but he got just as big a kick booking the great sidemen like Eddie Taylor and Hubert Sumlin and Wayne Bennett. Clifford didn't care if you hadn't heard of them. He knew everything about them and was like an excited kid when they played."

Antone was 25 when he founded the club.

"My friends and I in Port Arthur just wanted to hear the blues," he said last year. "We figured the only way we could hear it is if we bring it to us. It was like that movie 'Field of Dreams.'

The club became what sociologist Ray Oldenburg famously called a "great good place," where fans, local musicians and the legends both worshipped and could mingle.

"Stevie Vaughan and Albert King got to meet," Antone said. "These crucial relationships were built here. You know, Muddy (Waters) gets the Thunderbirds a tour after he plays with them, that sort of thing. I think we changed the course of blues history."

-- sidebar note: Clifford was was larger than life in MANY ways. Even when the club wasn't making ends meet, Clifford was determined not to let it suffer the same fate as the Armadillo World Headquarters which had gone belly up in 1980. One way he kept the club afloat and also kept the old blues legends alive, housed and fed was dealing in a little...okay a LOT of contraband. A true outlaw! Read on...

Antone's criminal escapades sometimes overshadowed his music business accomplishments. In 1984, he was convicted of possessing more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana and served 14 months of a five-year prison sentence in federal prison.

Antone's troubles worsened in 1996 as federal agents investigated a drug ring responsible for smuggling more than 5 tons of marijuana from Mexico to the United States and Canada...Facing a possible life sentence...Antone pleaded guilty in 1999.

-- Even after going to the Pen (twice!), Clifford never lost his passion for keeping the Blues live and alive, and when they let him out in 2002, he was back keeping a watchful eye on the club that still bore his name and spreading the gospel of the Blues. This past summer he gave Pinetop Perkins a red baby grand piano for his 93rd birthday. Nobody asked where the money came from!

Legendary Blues historian & DJ Larry Monroe liked to called Antones "The University of the Blues at Austin". I will always be grateful to "Dean" Clifford for the classroom, professors, and real deal Blues schoolin' he made possible for this kid from Temple, Texas.

As I finish this, Paul Ray is playing Stevie and Double Trouble's "The Sky is Crying". So am I, as is most of Austin tonight.

...adios, Clifford...y vaya con dios!

Chan Chandler
Renaissance Bubba Productions
www.chanchandler.com

Comments:
"It was like that movie 'Field of Dreams.'"

Sounds like a great guy, and a great place he had...
 
Chan,

LOVED the Lorenzo tune. Fantastic!
 
Indeed, we've all go the blues today.
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
Jackson, thanks for sharing the sad news about Clifford.

I just arrived back in Austin and the "Clifford Tribute Jam" at Antones starts at 4pm.and goes to 2am. I'll be standing in for all my East Coaster Blues buds and fellow Texpatriates!

Keep Austin Weird!

...and Tony, thanks for checking out the Chansongs. Glad you liked Lorenzo.
 
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