Saturday, May 13, 2017

Delbert McClinton at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill

Delbert McClinton was born in Lubbock, Texas, and relocated with his family to Fort Worth, Texas, when he was 11 years old. Growing up, he listened to country, tejano, western swing, rhythm and blues, and early rock and roll. Starting a career in music in 1962, he played harmonica, guitar and piano for others. McClinton played harmonica on Bruce Channel's 1962 hit "Hey! Baby" and toured England in Channel's band with the Beatles as the opening act; legend has it that McClinton instructed a young John Lennon on the finer points of blues harmonica. McClinton led the Straitjackets, the house band for all the top blues musicians who came through Ft. Worth, then worked briefly as a songwriter in Los Angeles, California, and then returned to Texas to join the Austin music scene.  He began recording solo albums in 1973 and was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011. His 25th and most recent album, Prick of the Litter, was released on January 27, 2017.

B.B. King Blues Club & Grill seems to be McClinton's New York anchor, as he headlines at the venue two or three times each year. Although the set list changes with each visit, the product is much the same, an outstanding set of blues-rooted rock and roll. At 76 years of age, McClinton played blues harmonica and sang rich and gutsy rhythm and blues vocals like he invented them. As he stepped back to catch his breath, the band carried his vision, providing lively rolling keyboard, guitar and horn breaks. In a couple of departures, McClinton crooned on a song that sounded like it came from the Great American Songbook, and the band supported him by stepping up the funk on a cover of the Temptations' "Shakey Ground." Otherwise, McClinton's somewhat hoarse vocals clung to his signature blues rock. As usual, McClinton ended his set with his sole Top 40 hit single, 1980's "Giving It Up for Your Love," and then returned for encores. McClinton should get an award for rocking so hard in his senior years.

Delbert McClinton will return to B.B. King Blues Club & Grill on November 1. In the meantime, visit McClinton at

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