Gary Clark Jr.
Birth name: Gary Clark Jr.
Birthplace: Austin, TX
February 15, 1984 – Present
Years Active: 1996 – Present
Austin, Texas is noted as an important locale within the history of the Blues in the United States. Gary Clark Jr.’s rise to Grammy-winning artist and celebrated singer-songwriter began in Austin’s Blues community during the 1990s when he was a burgeoning electric guitarist displaying an uncanny familiarity with American roots music. A native of Texas’ capital city, Clark began playing guitar at age twelve and starting making appearances in local clubs as a promising soloist during his teenage years.
Clark’s talents soon came to the attention of local impresario, Clifford Antone, namesake of Austin’s legendary Blues venue, Antone’s. Through Antone, the young wunderkind met Jimmie Vaughan, original guitarist for Texas Blues rockers The Fabulous Thunderbirds and older brother of guitar legend, Stevie Ray Vaughan. A mentorship ensued with the elder Vaughan championing the young Clark throughout the Austin music community. By the time he was 20, Clark had released two LPs and an EP on an independent label.
In 2007, Clark was cast as “Sonny Blake” in John Sayles’ film Honeydripper, portraying the role of a young guitarist in 1950s Alabama who is booked to appear in a failing Blues club in the hopes that his electrifying performances will reinvigorate the venue’s economic plight. The appearance introduced Clark to a wider audience and he performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival’s “50th Golden Celebration” to promote the film that same year. As Clark’s career continued to ascend, he began rubbing shoulders and performing on concert bills with the same guitarists who had helped define a distinct style of the Blues when it went electric in the 1940s.
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Eric Clapton took notice of Clark’s rising profile and personally requested the young Austin guitar whiz perform at his Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2010. Clark played his own set but also shared the stage with six-string maestros like B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, and Clapton. Clark’s performance was very well-received and led to a record deal with Warner Bros. Records. His first release for the label was the Bright Lights EP in 2011.
With Clark’s EP serving as a primer, the full-length Blak and Blu LP soon followed in 2012 and garnered significant critical praise and commercial success. Seamlessly blending Blues, Rock and Roll, Rhythm & Blues, and Soul, the album secured two Grammy Award nominations, with the track, “Please Come Home” winning the Best Traditional R&B Performance award. The Story of Sonny Boy Slim LP appeared in 2015, it featured similar stylistic traits, was well-received critically, and soared to the Number 1 slot on Billboard‘s Top Blues Albums chart.
Seeking to broaden his sound while turning up the volume sonically, Clark released This Land in 2019. Notable for bringing in elements of Hip Hop and Hard Rock, the album was heralded for its lyrical combination of social commentary and introspective examination as well as musical experimentation. Lauded by critics, the LP earned Clark three Grammy Awards out of four nominations, including the award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Apart from his work as a solo artist and bandleader, Clark is a frequent collaborator. He has recorded and performed over the years with a wide variety of artists, including Alicia Keys, Foo Fighters, Tech N9ne, Childish Gambino, and Tom Morello.