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William Clarke
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William Clarke

William

William Clarke (March 29, 1951, Inglewood, California - November 2, 1996, Fresno, California) was an American blues harmonica player. He was chiefly associated with the Chicago blues style of amplified harmonica, but also incorporated elements of soul jazz and swing into his playing.

Biography

Clarke played guitar and drums as a youngster and learned the blues through The Rolling Stones records. He began playing harmonica in 1967 and played locally in Los Angeles, California while he held a day job as a machinist. He soon struck up an association with George "Harmonica" Smith; the pair began playing regularly together in 1977, lasting until Smith died in 1983.

Clarke began releasing albums in 1978 on small local labels. In 1987 he was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award for his record Tip of the Top, and after sending a demo tape to Alligator Records, he secured a national recording contract. His debut for Alligator, Blowin' Like Hell, arrived in 1990, and he followed the release with international touring. "Must Be Jelly", a song from the album, won the Handy Award for Blues Song of the Year.

Clarke was touring in March 1996 when he collapsed on stage at a date in Indianapolis. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and as a result lost weight and cut back on alcohol and drugs. These measures were not sufficient to keep him healthy; he collapsed again in November, at a gig in Fresno, and died of a bleeding ulcer, at the age of 45, the following day.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There seem to be those who will reluctantly call William Clarke a legend. They argue that only time will give him that designation and the time since his earthly departure has been all too brief. But there is no arguing that in his all too brief musical career, he made an indelible mark on the Blues, and established a high water mark by which other harpists may be measured for years to come. A technical virtuoso on both the diatonic and chromatic harmonica, he was not content to cop licks from other artists. He borrowed from jazz influences that gave his music an undeniable personal signature, a sound unmistakably his own. William's carrer changed when he was signed with Alligtor Records in 1991. He then began touring all over the country. He actually only toured professionally for 5 years prior to his death. In this short time William received 4 WC HANDY Awards. I still have unreleased music on this great musician and I will continue to release music on William. I promised him that. My late husband is missed by many but sometimes I feel as if he is right here. I can picture him playing on stage and yelling out "MERCY ME"!!!!!!! written by Dave King (Cross Harp Cronicles ) and Jeannette Clarke-Lodovici

http://www.myspace.com/wjclarke

 

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