Delbert McClinton continues to cross genres with a performance at 53rd MJF.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Delbert McClinton’s latest CD, Acquired Taste, is all over the place. With its streaking guitar and Latin percussion, “Mama’s Little Baby” could be a lost Los Lobos song. “I Need to Know” is a grimy blast of electric guitar blues and harmonica, while “Can’t Nobody Say I Didn’t Try” is country in the vein of Hank Williams with killer lovelorn lines like: “She only blooms at night/ Under the neon light.”
Though jazz is not the first genre to come to mind when listening to Acquired Taste, Monterey Jazz Festival Marketing Associate Timothy Orr says that McClinton, who performs Saturday on the Arena Stage, is part of a longtime festival tradition of securing roots and blues acts for the Saturday afternoon slot. “Delbert kind of fits into a permutation or a root of what jazz is,” Orr says.
Having lived in Nashville for the past 22 years, McClinton is quick to attribute his musical diversity to his Texas upbringing. “As a kid growing up, I started playing in clubs in the early ’50s, and you had to be able to play dance music, country music and rock and roll music by the time that came around,” he says. “So growing up and playing music in clubs and places in Texas, it was a very varied bunch of styles.”
While McClinton played harmonica on fellow Texan Bruce Channel’s huge 1962 hit “Hey! Baby,” it wasn’t until 1975 that he released his first solo album, Victim of Life’s Circumstances. It then took a full decade and a half and a Grammy winning 1991 duet with Bonnie Raitt on “Good Man, Good Woman” for McClinton to break through to a larger audience.
“It was a turning point,” he says of the duet. “I guess the thing is that winning one on someone else’s coattails, so to speak, is pretty good, but it just made me say, ‘Well I’d feel better if I got one on my own.’”
In 2001, McClinton took home his own Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album for his CD Nothing Personal.
Since the win, McClinton has released four studio albums and two live collections. The prolific musician says it’s “a very personal thrill” to finish a song he likes, and it sounds like the 70-year-old McClinton isn’t planning on retiring anytime soon.
“I have had a song going on in my head all my life, so it’s not like I have to make myself want to do it,” he says. “I’m all the time writing something in my head or with someone. It just doesn’t stop.”