Delbert McClinton

"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".

 

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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”.

the Crazy Cajun Recordings

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 the Texan label LeCam label. And if you really wanted to know when Delbert was first heard on record, you’d 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. Today, Delbert McClinton has earned success as a hit songwriter, rock singer, soul belter and even as a country crooner. ~ Demon Music Group

Delbert McClinton bio

Born November 4, 1940 in Lubbock, Texas, Delbert started playing guitar as a teenager and by age 19 was leading The Straitjackets, house band at Jack's, a tough Fort Worth black club. Inspired by Jimmy Reed, he learned to play harmonica around 1960, lessons provided by Sonny Boy Williamson, who also turned him on to pot. McClinton soon found himself backing up many of the major blues artists who regularly visited Jack's. Think of it -- before he was even old enough to vote -- or legally drink -- Delbert had led the backing band for such giants as Howling Wolf, Lightning Hopkins, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Williamson, Reed and Big Joe Turner! 

Despite his early start McClinton has had more sheer bad luck in his recording career than thirteen boxcars full of three-legged black cats passing under a bridge of ladders on Friday the 13th. After getting rave critical reviews for his Clean Records collaborations with Glen Clark (the first of which was co-produced by T-Bone Burnett and featured cover art by Larry Rivers!), Clean went bust. McClinton went to ABC Records but that imprint eventually was bought and absorbed by MCA, destroying any momentum he had built up with his superb mid-70s releases there: “Victim of Life's Circumstances”, “Genuine Cowhide” and “Love Rustler”. Undaunted, our hero moved to Capricorn, arriving just in time to issue “Second Wind” and “Keeper Of The Flame” before that label went belly up. 

He stopped next to Muscle Shoals Sound, a Capitol Records subsidiary, where he almost immediately hit with "Givin' It Up For Your Love". The follow-up, "Shotgun Rider", was rising on the charts when Muscle Shoals Sound capsized, again leaving McClinton victimized and labelless. 

Still undaunted, the hard-edged soul shouter continued to make exceptional recordings, first for Alligator, then Curb and MCA before inking with Rising Tide and resuming the pattern of signing with labels just before they collapsed. Clearly, if Delbert expected to make a living from his recordings he was looking at some pretty empty pantries. 
However, as most of us know, as great as they are, Delbert McClinton's recordings have not earned him an international reputation as one of the finest soul artists and roadhouse rockers extant. It's his live shows that have enchanted, excited and enthralled hundreds of thousands of folks, beginning way back there in Texas in the late '50s and continuing right up to the present. Catch one of those shows and you're going to enjoy yourself because Delbert always has a cooking band featuring a fine horn section and he himself works his hiney off to make sure you get your money's worth. You'll also notice a high percentage of women present, many more than usual without a date, drawn as much by Delbert's GQ-handsome features as by the driving, rocking sounds from the bandstand. 

But the music world hasn't dealt Delbert only misfortune. Some of the songs he has written have taken on a life of their own to become major successes for other artists, a list that includes Emmylou Harris' #1 hit on his "Two More Bottles of Wine" and the fame and celebrity attached to "B Movie Box Car Blues", a staple of The Blues Brothers live shows and their smash hit film. He's also found success as a duet partner, earning a Grammy Award in 1991 for his collaboration with Bonnie Raitt on "Good Man, Good Woman" from her breakthrough release, “Luck of the Draw”. McClinton also gained a Finalist nod at the 1994 Country Music Association Awards for his "Tell Me About It" duet with Tanya Tucker. Additional McClinton songs have been cut by such stars as Waylon Jennings, Dr. Hook and Doug Sahm. 

There should be some kind of award to give to talented and tireless artists like Delbert McClinton who make exemplary music for forty years but who somehow miss out on the share of fame and fortune their extraordinary abilities should have earned them. In Delbert's case, there should be a special proviso attached for sheer persistence and for never quitting. He may sing about "Givin' It Up For Your Love" in countless honky-tonks, crowded bars and high-toned lounges coast-to-coast but Delbert McClinton has never given up his love of music nor his ability to create great sounds that draw from rock, R'n'B, country, blues, rockabilly and even folk sources. This, my friends, is the voice of a master; listen and enjoy these early recordings! 

~John Lomax III, September 1998