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W.C. Clark, the 'Godfather of Austin Blues,' dies at 84

Austin blues luminary W.C. Clark performs during a dress rehearsal for Austin City Limits at KLRU in 1989.
Lisa Davis
Austin History Center, AR-2010-022-02-49-032
Austin blues luminary W.C. Clark performs during a dress rehearsal for Austin City Limits at KLRU in 1989.

Musician W.C. Clark, known as Austin's "Godfather of Austin Blues,” died Saturday. He was 84.

Music historian Michael Corcoran reported Clark’s death on his Substack. He died in hospice “just days after doctors found cancer,” Corcoran wrote.

Born in Austin on Nov. 16, 1939, Wesley Curley Clark grew up around music, singing with his family in the St. Johns College Heights Baptist Church choir. He started playing guitar in the early 1950s.

At age 16, Clark played his first gig at Victory Grill, where he was introduced to blues musician T.D. Bell. He later joined Bell’s band as a bass guitarist.

In the early 1960s, Clark performed alongside Blues Boy Hubbard and The Jets at Charlie’s Playhouse. It was at this venue where he crossed paths with R&B artist Joe Tex, who subsequently invited him to join his band.

Clark later formed Southern Feeling in the early 1970s with singer Angela Strehli and guitarist/pianist Denny Freeman. The group played in Austin and along the West Coast until they broke up. Following the disbandment, Clark returned to a job as a mechanic.

Stevie Ray Vaughan persuaded him to quit and join his band, Triple Threat Revue. Clark got his first platinum record with the band for co-writing "Cold Shot" with pianist Mike Kindred.

Clark eventually parted ways with Vaughan and formed his own band, The W.C. Clark Blues Revue. He self-released his debut recording, Something for Everybody, in 1986. Throughout the 1980s and early '90s, Clark's band grew in popularity in the Austin music scene, holding regular gigs at iconic venues such as Antone's. They also gained prominence by opening for legendary musicians like B.B. King and James Brown. During this time, he signed with Black Top Records and won numerous awards.

Clark impacted generations throughout his 40-year career — from touring overseas, releasing seven albums and making hundreds of festival appearances. He leaves behind his daughter, Brittany Mays, two brothers — Daniel and Charles — and a sister Mary.

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