W.C. Clark’s performance this Saturday at the Cultural Activities Center isn’t his first gig in Temple. “Back in the early ’70s I often played a blues club there, and at a bar downtown, too,” he recalls, “so I’m ready to come back again.”
Dubbed the “Godfather of Austin Blues and Soul,” Clark, 74, actually resides in Buda, and concertizes widely in the U.S. and internationally. He played his first club date at age16 and was promptly hired by blues legend T.D. Bell. A stint with Joe Tex and tours of the “chitlin’ circuit” alongside icons like Tyrone Davis and James Brown developed Clark’s musical virtuosity and showmanship.
Throughout much of the ’70s, Clark was associated with Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Along with pianist Mike Kindred, Clark wrote “Cold Shot,” one of Vaughan’s biggest hits and Clark’s first platinum record. Asked about Stevie Ray, Clark speaks deliberately: “He was a seeker. He would stoop down and look at my guitar: ‘How’d you do that? What’d you do here; what’d you do there?’ Stevie was so good — a natural musician.”
After playing bass for Vaughan in the late ’70s, Clark formed his own band and worked steadily in the Austin area. The PBS show “Austin City Limits” celebrated his 50th birthday and also
broadcast Clark and his famous pupil, Stevie Ray Vaughan, jamming together in 2000.
A road warrior, Clark has performed at the Chicago Blues Festival, European Blues Festival, in Ottawa, Toronto, Russia and Turkey.
“I’ve seen four generation gaps,” Clark said, referring to the popularity of live blues-influenced music. “The last generation put a heavy dent in the blues. You take (Austin’s) Sixth Street — it’s not as strong as it was. There’s always new beats, new styles — then, slowly — things like jazz and blues merge back to the top.” Surprisingly, he doesn’t categorically condemn disco: “I work the soulful disco tunes into my act,” and cites “Rock Me Baby” and “Superstition” as examples.
It’s been a while, but Clark remembers those hard-scrabble club dates. “After I got off the road with Joe Tex, I played at the Austex Lounge. I got a set fee plus 80 percent of the gate.” And what was the admission fee? Laughing, he said: “Fifty cents.”
The CAC audience can expect to hear “songs from all my CDs,” Clark said. “And I’ll have them for sale, too.” He’ll be joined by bass, drums, a second guitar and saxophonist Kaz Kazanoff. The concert is billed as a two-hour event, and when he’s reminded of the time frame, he reflects. “Usually, my first set’s 90 minutes — if the gig’s two hours I’ll just play straight through. If I have the audience in the palm of my hand, I hold them there as long as I can.”