Gary Lee Clark Jr is a 39-year-old American guitarist and singer from Austin, Texas. When he first started releasing records on Warner Bros Records in 2011 he was regarded as an impressive blues-revivalist. As his career developed, it became evident that he is as skilled at rock and soul music as he is at blues. With his 2019 album, This Land, widely regarded as his best, Clark established that he is a songwriter as much as a guitar-slinger. On This Land he also impresses as a singer.
Clark has a smooth singing voice and an effective, Curtis Mayfield-like falsetto, which he occasionally used on tracks like Cold Blooded (on The Story of Sonny Boy Slim 2015). On This Land he deploys his vocal range to great effect. Our first video is from the tour in support of This Land. For nearly two hours, through 18 tracks, 3 of them in the encore, a young fan stood in front of Clark holding a sign. The sign stated that it was the kid’s 18th birthday and he wanted to play guitar with Clark.
As we have seen, Clark relented before the penultimate song of the evening, a cover of Robert Petway’s Catfish Blues. So the birthday boy, Jeff Tallman, was invited on stage and handed Clark’s yellow Gibson SG guitar equipped with 3 P-90 pickups. Luckily young Jeff Tallman has chops to spare. Ed Gonzalez says, simply, “I was at this show. This kid absolutely tore it up.” Ed Petrik writes “This kid comes out and shakes all the band members’ hands! No matter what comes next, da kid has class.”
Jeff Tallman played so well that some thought he was a “plant.” In a review of the concert, Stanley Collins records his discussion with Kevin (no surname given). Stanley says that Jeff “killed it”, but “do we really believe he was just a random kid in the audience?” Kevin responds, “Call me a sceptic but something seems fishy.” He adds that Jeff’s playing was just too good for there not to be more to the story. We’ll get back to this. First let’s hear Gary Clark Jr’s single, This Land.
This Land is the title track of Gary Clark Jr’s 2019 album. In 2020, the song was awarded the Grammy Award for “Best Rock Song” and Clark won “Best Rock Performance” for the track.
Two years after the 29 March 2019 Philadelphia concert, where Jeff Tallman joined Clark on stage to play Catfish Blues, Tallman left a comment under the video. He writes that a friend had recently sent him a link to the video and he was in shock and disbelief at the response to the video. After thanking the YouTube viewers for their generosity he addresses two issues. The first is worth quoting in full: “I can confidently tell anyone that has any disbelief, that this was by no means planned at all! I have seen Gary perform many other times. On one occasion. I was 13 and he handed me a guitar pic from the stage. Another time in 2016 I met him after a show at The Stone Pony and gave him my hat. He remembered me from that encounter, hence the comment ‘I don’t still have the hat’, but he had no assured knowledge I can play the guitar. He was being the truly generous person he is and took a chance on me, a chance I will forever be grateful for!”
The second issue Tallman touches on is comments by people who criticised the way he moved on stage, as if he was trying to steal the spotlight or show off. Tallman responds he was nervous playing with his idol in front of 1000s of people. He said he was feeling the music, “the same way everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis to Angus Young to Chuck Berry have been known to do. Regardless I still take all criticism to heart and hope to learn from what everyone has to say!”
Well played Jeff Tallman, and good on you, Gary Clark Jr. Also, well done on the Grammys Gary. The Music Man wishes both Jeff Tallman and Gary Clark Jr well on their journeys in music. Who knows, perhaps they’ll play together again. If you would like to see more from Gary Clark Jr, you can subscribe to his YouTube channel. You can also visit his official website for more information.