"I've been doing this for 43 years. It's been killing me and keeping me alive at the same time".
When a lot of people first heard Delbert McClinton's scintillating and sizzling "Givin' It Up For Your Love" come churning over the airwaves in 1981 they probably figured he was a new artist celebrating his first hit. Well, they'd be half right, Delbert was enjoying his first hit but he hadn't been a new artist since the early '60s, when he recorded for legendary Ft. Worth eccentric "Major" Bill Smith on his LeCam label.
In point of fact, McClinton's first album, following these Crazy Cajun sides, was made with Glen Clark and was issued as Delbert & Glen in 1972 on Clean Records, affiliated with Atlantic. By the time "Givin' It Up" hit, McClinton had already issued an additional six albums, including another Delbert & Glen project and five solo efforts for ABC and Capricorn.
However, "Givin' It Up" didn't even mark his first chart record; that honor goes to "If You Really Want Me To, I'll Go", a 1965 release on Smash Records that scraped the bottom of the "Hot 100" for the Ron-Dels, with Delbert as lead singer.
And if you really want to know when Delbert was first heard on record, you'll have to go all the way back to 1962 and Bruce Channel's monster pop record, "Hey Baby" for that was McClinton supplying the superb harmonica licks for his Fort Worth pal. (The nitpickers and music historians among you probably know that the record was actually released in 1961, on Le Cam, before being licensed by Smash).
Today, thirty-six years after "Hey Baby" -- and the harmonica lessons he gave John Lennon when Channel toured England (anyone notice a similarity in the "harp" sound on "Hey Baby" and "She Loves You"?) -- Delbert McClinton has earned success as a hit songwriter, rock singer, soul belter and even as a country crooner. There are many, this writer among them, who feel that McClinton is the best white soul singer to ever step before a microphone. His latest album, 1997's “One Of The Fortunate Few”, issued on MCA's short-lived offshoot Rising Tide Records, represented some of his finest work to date and earned him his first appearance on the country singles chart as a solo artist for "Sending Me Angels".
Notes on the Recordings
Delbert was clearly in transition when he connected with eccentric Ft. Worth impresario Major Bill Smith to make the music which Edsel now presents. Alas, no precise documentation of recording dates is available but the best guesses, based on the dates for the "cover" songs place these recordings during the late '60s.
McClinton tries on a variety of styles, ranging from the roadhouse rock/r'n'b music he practically owns a patent on through folk-tinged efforts and all the way to his versions of such pop and rock hits as "This Boy" and "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'". While plenty know the latter as the oft-covered Nancy Sinatra anthem, the former may be a little more obscure. "This Boy" is also known as "Ringo's Theme", taken from the Beatles' film Hard Days Night and represents George Martin's only trip to the Billboard charts as an artist*.
In fact, the album presents a good example of a singer caught between his teenage love for American blues and r'n'b music, and a more mature man enamoured by the Beatles and the revitalized late '60s rock and roll scene which was producing exciting music on both sides of the Atlantic. Delbert's Beatles influence is most apparent on Fab Four covers like "This Boy" and "Twist And Shout" (itself a cover from the Isley Brothers) as well as on the intro from "I Lost My Love Today" and "Cryin' Over You",.
But there's a lot more to admire here; try Delbert's totally credible version of one of Otis Redding's best, "Mr. Pitiful", a raucous remake of "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'", a surprising stab at Mel Tillis' country classic, "I Ain't Never" and a splendid, wailin' take on "Don't Cry No More", one of Bobby "Blue" Bland's finest sides from his early '60s Duke Records sessions.
Since Delbert has crafted several hit songs taken to the top of the charts by other artists, the assumption here is that much, if not all of the others, are McClinton originals. Such efforts as "Picture of You", "It's Over" and "Except For You" (with its "Can I Get A Witness" touches) present evidence of a songwriter still learning his craft, searching for the unique niche he later found with such compositions as "B Movie Boxcar Blues" and "Two More Bottles of Wine". Bear in mind that these recordings were made during the late '60s, when artists were just beginning to write their own material.
No album made during these days would be complete without some sort of homage to Bo Diddley; among Texas musicians in those days Bo ruled! Besides his signature and seminal syncopated "shave and a haircut" guitar licks, with his luscious half-sister, "The Duchess" on guitar and wildman Jerome Green shaking the maracas, Bo had one of the toughest and hottest stage shows going. McClinton and Meaux touch Bo's base with "Lover In Demand", a churning ode to a man with so many girls he's required to schedule his dates.
In addition, Delbert reaches even further back into a rockin' soul bag when he covers "Don't Let Go", kickoff to this Edsel set. First placed on the charts by Roy Hamilton forty years ago, "Don't Let Go" returned to the Billboard "Hot 100" in 1975 by Commander Cody and five years later by Isaac Hayes. Now you may think you haven't heard "Don't Let Go", but I'm betting the following lyric snatches will jog your memory:
"thunder, lightnin', wind and rain . . . . mmmmmmm
my love is throbbing inside my brain". . . .and,
oooeee, this feelin's killin' me
aw shucks, I wouldn't stop for a million bucks"
And, you know, Delbert hasn't stopped, not for money nor for the external difficulties he's endured and surmounted in his now forty year career. Join in by popping this into your player and you'll see where Delbert McClinton, a quintessential white soul shouter, learned his craft. Dancing is permitted!
~John Lomax III, September 1998
* Editor’s note: In the UK of course, where side two of the album “A Hard Day’s Night” featured six new Lennon/McCartney compositions rather than George Martin’s orchestrations for the film, “This Boy” is best known as the b-side of “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.