2023 HOF Inductee W.C. Clark

W.C. Clark

2023 HOF Inductee W.C. Clark

“If the blues is played right,” says Austin, Texas, native W.C. Clark, “it makes your soul feel clean.” Indeed, master guitarist/vocalist Clark – known as “The Godfather of Austin Blues” – has been playing the blues right and cleansing souls from the east side of Austin to stages around the world for over 40 years. Blues stars from Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan to Angela Strehli to Lou Ann Barton to Marcia Ball have all perfected their craft under Clark’s tutelage. Clark’s mix of modern Texas blues, searing guitar and heartfelt, Memphis-style soul vocals have made him a favorite of blues and R&B fans alike.

Wesley Curley Clark was born into a musical Austin family in 1939. His father played guitar, and his grandmother, mother, and sisters all sang gospel in the church choir. “I had so much music in my soul,” Clark recalls, “all I had to do was pick up an instrument and play it.” He learned the guitar as a youngster and at age 16 played his first gig at the Victory Grill, where he was introduced to Texas blues legend T.D. Bell. Clark toured the Southern “chitlin’ circuit,” learning music first-hand from Tex and countless soul and blues stars, including Tyrone Davis and James Brown. Along the way, Clark perfected his ability to lift an audience into a soul frenzy. When he returned to Austin, Clark found the musical landscape changing with a whole new crop of young white kids beginning to venture out to the blues clubs to learn how to play. The scene was completely transformed as future stars like the Vaughan brothers, Bill Campbell, Paul Ray, and Angela Strehli came to Austin and discovered the rich musical legacy of bluesmen like W.C. Clark.

In the early 1970s, Clark formed Southern Feeling along with singer Angela Strehli and guitarist/pianist Denny Freeman. He then met and befriended Jimmie Vaughan’s firebrand guitarist brother Stevie Ray, who occasionally sat in with the band. After Southern Feeling dissolved, Clark took a day job as a mechanic, but he was courted relentlessly by Stevie, who was determined to have W.C. as a member of his own band. Clark eventually quit his job to become the bass player in the Triple Threat Revue with Stevie, keyboardist Mike Kindred, drummer Freddie Pharoah and singer Lou Ann Barton. While playing in this band, Clark and keyboardist Kindred co-wrote Cold Shot, which became one of Vaughan’s biggest hits and recently earned W.C. his first platinum record.

Clark left Vaughan in the late 1970s and formed his own band, The W.C. Clark Blues Revue, and self-released his first recording, Something For Everybody, in 1986. The band became stalwarts on the Austin scene throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, playing regular gigs at legendary venues like Antone’s and opening for the likes of B.B. King, James Brown, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Albert King. Clark’s star – at least locally – was rising.

Clark has toured relentlessly for years including performances at the Chicago Blues Festival, European Blues Festivals, Ottawa and Toronto Blues Festivals, various festivals in Europe, Russia and Turkey. Along the way he has met up with old fans and friends and undoubtedly gained new ones everywhere he plays. The rest of the world is now in on what the city of Austin has known for decades: W.C. Clark is an innovative and creative artist whose soulful singing and tasty guitar playing reach out from Austin, with soul, to all corners of the music-loving world.

With his non-stop touring, Clark’s star continues to rise, as his soulful singing and blistering guitar playing guarantees that his constantly growing fan base will never stop shouting for more.