It’s hard to fit Americana music into a traditional category. It’s a little bit rock and roll, a little soul, a lot of blues, and more than a dash of country. Long before Americana started to become a growing category of its own, there was a Texan from Fort Worth named Delbert McClinton who really had this to himself.
His life story is told in the new book “Delbert McClinton: One of the Fortunate Few” by biographer Diana Finlay Hendricks.
“No one had ever written a book about him. I was surprised,” Finlay Hendricks says. “I was working on just a basic bio, and the first thing I did was look to see what other people had written, and no one yet had written a book.”
McClinton says he was surprised by the idea.
“I would never have thought that anybody would want to read a book about me, but Diana and I got to talking, and all of a sudden it sounded like something fun to do,” he says.
One of the legendary stories about McClinton is that he taught John Lennon how to play harmonica – and not long after, Lennon was using harmonica in “Love Me Do.”
“Well, of course there’s some truth to it,” McClinton says, “but you know, it’s been romanticized a great deal as those stories do.”
When he was touring with Bruce Channel, playing harmonica on the worldwide number one hit with ‘Hey Baby,’ McClinton says most nights one musician or another asked him for a harmonica lesson. One of them was John Lennon.
“The Beatles were the opening act on at least two of the shows we did, and John and I hung out a little bit, not a whole lot,” he says. “We didn’t become the best of friends but we were on common ground at the time.”
Biographer Finlay Hendricks says the book focuses on McClinton’s career as a pioneer in many different music scenes.
“With Americana music, people have struggled – and with Delbert’s music, people have struggled – to define what it is,” she says. “He has spent his career avoiding labels, and that’s challenged radio promoters and record store owners, not knowing which bin to put him in or what station to play him on.”
McClinton says the story is far from over – he’s currently working on his next album.
Written by Jen Rice.