Gonna know his name: Austin guitar whiz Gary Clark Jr

Thu Mar 22, 2012 7:02pm EDT
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By Corrie MacLaggan

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Gary Clark Jr. was shaking. He was around 15, with the X's of an underage club patron marking the backs of his hands. He'd brought his guitar to the Austin blues institution Antone's and had just been called on stage to play alongside Hubert Sumlin, Calvin "Fuzz" Jones, James Cotton and Mojo Buford.

"They were some of the most low-down guys in blues," Clark, now 28, told Reuters during the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in the Texas capital, where he was born and still lives. "It was kind of a special moment, just kind of the beginning of all this."

For Clark, all this includes, just in the past few months, playing on the "Late Show with David Letterman", opening for Eric Clapton in Brazil and performing for President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama during a White House blues showcase that also featured B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Mick Jagger.

All from a guy who failed a public speaking assignment in high school because he was too terrified to show up for his presentation. Even now, the tall, lanky blues-soul-rock musician said, "everyone's always telling me to speak up."

Still, those who have been watching him for years in Austin say he's evolved from a shy performer to a confident band leader. He pivots from mellow songs - sometimes singing falsetto - to loud, hot displays of guitar intensity, as he did during a late-night show last week during SXSW.

"You gonna know my name by the end of the night," Clark, wearing a black hat, sang as part of the title song of "Bright Lights", his major-label debut EP from Warner Bros.


Clark started playing guitar at age 12, a year after his friend Eve Monsees, whose house was so close to his that he could hear her jamming down the street. They started playing in their garages after school.   Continued...

Gary Clark Jr. performs during the "In Performance at the White House" series, hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama where music legends and contemporary major artists perform to celebrate blues music and in recognition of Black History Month, in Washington February 21, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Kleponis