35 years ago today, the great guitar player, Clarence White, was killed by a drunk driver as he and his brother, Roland, were loading out after a gig. Clarence has been one of my favorite musicians for as long as I can remember, so I’ve decided to pay homage to him in a fun (and hopefully unique) way.
Beginning with my next post, I’m gonna take a year-by-year look at CW’s electric guitar legacy. Though he revolutionized bluegrass guitar playing with The Kentucky Colonels, my favorite stuff has generally featured him on electric. So, my examination of Clarence’s career actually begins midstream, in late 1965, as the Colonels are disbanding and he’s discovering the joys of the Fender Telecaster. What followed over the next few years was an astounding process of reinvention, in which Clarence created a totally unique style of playing electric guitar, as revolutionary within the context of country and rock as his acoustic style was in the context of bluegrass. Oh, and just so I’m totally clear, I’ll be posting about one year at a time, over the course of several months. Covering his entire electric output in one post? That’s pure craziness, even by my own lofty standards of insanity.
As a teaser of said electric prowess, here’s a couple tracks from the recently released Byrds album, Live At Royal Albert Hall 1971, recorded within a few months of the above picture. The first track is a cover of the old Jimmy Reed blues number, while the second track is the greatest country-rock song ever written about meeting aliens. Two songs with very different stylistic needs, united by CW’s personal stamp of genius.
FYI, Live At Royal Albert Hall 1971 has been issued, not by The Byrds’ longtime label, Columbia, but rather by stalwart independent, Sundazed Music. While the album is available in the CD format, Sundazed earns mad props for also issuing this album in a high-definition vinyl 2-LP set. I’m no preacher man, but if you can toss a little coin in the Sundazed collection plate, I’d say they’ve earned it.