Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Epigraph

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword

Don Imus

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pp. ix-x

In Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, Number 10 is “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

For me that generally means forewords and introductions.

So, when Diana Hendricks asked if I’d write a foreword for the biography of Delbert McClinton she was working on, I said I would, figuring most people are like me and would ignore it, and go right to the parts where Delbert tells us a bunch of shit that probably isn’t even close to being true. Or, on the remote chance...

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Acknowledgments

Diana Finlay Hendricks

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pp. xi-xiv

Don Imus tells me that no one reads this part of a book, but it’s kind of like the credits of the movie. There are some people who made this book happen. And for whom I am grateful. So, read along or skip this part if you are in a hurry to get on with the book.

This story began in 2014, when Nancy Coplin recommended that Wendy Goldstein, Delbert McClinton’s wife and manager, talk to me about writing a new biography for Delbert’s website....

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Prologue

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pp. 1-4

The phone rang at 5:30 a.m. “Dad, wake up,” said Delbert’s eldest son, Monty. “I need to tell you something.”

Delbert recalls, “I was already awake. A phone call at that hour of the morning never brings good news. Monty said, ‘Clay has been in a bad car wreck and he’s got a terrible head injury.’ My world stopped.”1

They were on the next flight to Austin out of Nashville....

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CHAPTER 1. “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember”: Postwar Years—Lubbock, Texas

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pp. 5-17

It was an unseasonably warm and dry Monday morning on November 4, 1940,2 in Lubbock, Texas, when Delbert was born to Herman Louis McClinton and Vivian Fanny Dyer Bridwell McClinton. Born at home, at 2112 Ninth Street, he was his mother’s third son, and his father’s only offspring.

Vivian had married Jack Bridwell when she was sixteen. Jack and his good friend, Herman, were both drivers for Snyder Transfer, a large trucking company in West Texas. Vivian was widowed...

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CHAPTER 2. Cost of Living: North Texas in the Early ‘50s

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pp. 18-25

Delbert and Roger Lapham became good friends that year, and even in their class picture, you see them on the front row. Delbert is the only kid not facing the camera, turned sideways talking to Roger in the picture.

“Fort Worth was a new world for me. A big city. I did as well as could be expected. An eleven-year old kid, uprooted from the only town I’d ever known and taken 300 miles away. Before that, the furthest I’d ever been was Snyder or Sweetwater to visit cousins....

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CHAPTER 3. “Never Been Rocked Enough”: The Birth of Rock and Roll

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pp. 26-34

They had spent the night in the woods camping out and shooting guns. Delbert says that he and his friends were headed back home, coming across a big field.

“Across the way was a drive-in restaurant with trays on the car windows and big speakers blasting loud music. I heard ‘Honey Hush,’ by Big Joe Turner for the first time,” Delbert recalls that hot summer afternoon like it was yesterday. “I just stopped in my...

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CHAPTER 4. “Right to Be Wrong”: Coming of Age in a Texas Roadhouse

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pp. 35-51

There was no turning back for Delbert and his musical career. That first band, the Mellow Fellows, was proof that everybody has to start somewhere.

The band changed names and personnel a few times, and the talent improved tremendously. By February 1958, Delbert’s band was becoming well known around Fort Worth. The Straitjackets, the band name, was spelled multiple ways through those years...

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CHAPTER 5. “Honky Tonkin’ (I GuessI Done Me Some)”: The Straitjackets

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pp. 52-61

Major Bill Smith was a former Army Air Corps bomber pilot, shot down and wounded over Germany. After the war, he became a public relations officer at Carswell Air Force Base near Fort Worth, and quickly got involved in the budding Texas music industry. On Sundays, he would go down to the missions to preach. Major Bill was described as a “relentless self-promoter who was disinclined to let the facts get in the way of a good story.”2...

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CHAPTER 6. “If You Really Want Me To, I’ll Go”: The Rondels

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pp. 62-69

No blues story comes without some tragedy. And Delbert’s is no exception. Walter Lee Connell III was Delbert’s favorite cousin and lifelong friend. His death was a somber beginning for the next chapter of Delbert’s career.

Walter, twenty-three, died on June 8, 1965, of asphyxiation. He and a friend, Joel Lee Searcy, twenty-two, were found slumped in the seats of an English-made sports car, according to news...

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CHAPTER 7. “Livin’ It Down”: Learning the Business of Music

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pp. 70-80

With the regional success of “If You Really Want Me To, I’ll Go” along with the Rondels’s broadening base of popularity, Major Bill believed it could draw national attention. He sent the single to Smash Records. Riding on jukebox success, Smash hurried to release the record, with “Walk About,” as the B-side. It quickly became a jukebox hit as well. However, the record had no distribution, so fans could not buy it....

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CHAPTER 8. “Two More Bottles of Wine”: The Los Angeles Years

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pp. 81-88

It was late winter of 1970 when they loaded the car. Driving to California brought Delbert a sense of freedom he had never experienced. Although it would be a difficult time for him personally, it also was a productive time in terms of evolving as a songwriter and performer. Delbert’s move to the West Coast was encouraged by his longtime friend and musical partner, Glen Clark, another Fort Worth musician who had played keyboard...

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CHAPTER 9. “California Livin’ ”: Clean Records

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pp. 89-95

Delbert McClinton and Glen Clark stayed active writing songs, but they kept their day jobs. Glen recalls, “We would go to work at the veterinary supply house, Sharpe and Vejar, and sweep and pack boxes, and unload one-hundred-pound sacks of dog food from boxcars like a fire brigade when the trains would come through. It was hard work, but the bosses and everyone there knew that Delbert and I were trying to make music, and they...

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CHAPTER 10. “Victim of Life’s Circumstances”: Going Solo

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pp. 96-103

Delbert recognized Donna Sue Cowden. Since the late 1960s, she had come out to the Fort Worth clubs where he played and about once a year, they would catch themselves stealing glances at one another. That night, in 1973, Delbert was still married to Sandra Sue. He didn’t want to stay married, but she didn’t want a divorce. Delbert says, “I was miserable. Sandra Sue was, too. We both wanted something else. But, she wouldn’t cooperate. She didn’t believe in divorce, no matter what. We were pretty...

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CHAPTER 11. “It Ain’t Whatcha Eat but the Way How You Chew It”: Progressive Country

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pp. 104-116

Progressive country. Redneck rock. Rhythm and blues. The 1970s were a coming of age for the Austin music scene. It wasn’t just about the music. Everyone was feeling a new sense of freedom. Texas politicians were hanging out backstage at concerts. A startup magazine called Texas Monthly was seeking young, hungry contributing writers. With new art, music, and literature, Austin was being called the Paris of the 1970s. Newspaper hacks...

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CHAPTER 12. Second Wind: The Road Warrior

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pp. 117-129

The urban cowboy craze gained national attention, first, with an Esquire magazine article, and then with a 1980 movie by the same title.

Journalist Aaron Latham follows the true story of the love–hate relationship of Dew Westbrook and Betty Helmer, as it plays out in two-step time at Gilley’s Club, a mega-dance hall in Pasadena, Texas. Through their story, he chronicles the celebrated cowboy...

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CHAPTER 13. “I Want to Love You”: Wendy and the Lost Boys

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pp. 130-140

Plain’ from the Heart, the second record on Muscle Shoals/Capitol, was vintage Delbert McClinton. Surrounded with lifelong friends and mainstays of his band, Billy Sanders, James Pennebaker, Ernie Durawa, Barry (Frosty) Frost, and Robert Harwell, Delbert went all out on a multifaceted project. This was the natural next step after the top-ten hit with “Giving It Up for Your Love” on The Jealous Kind....

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CHAPTER 14. “Take it Easy”: The Worst of Times

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pp. 141-149

By 1986, Wendy had taken on the full-time, day-to-day management role, something Delbert had never really had. She was traveling with the band, and handling the day-to-day business. She cashed in her NBC retirement, bought a GMC 4104 school bus for fifteen thousand dollars, and spent another fifteen thousand dollars customizing it. Finally, Delbert had a decent and, for the most part, reliable bus that would stand up to the rigors of the road.

This was the year that Delbert and Wendy faced their own...

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CHAPTER 15. “Good Man, Good Woman”: Making It Work

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pp. 150-162

The year 1989 proved to be a major turning point in Delbert’s career. He had filmed another show for Austin City Limits in the fall of 1988. Wendy had written: Sandra and Gary Turlington went with us and Delbert was spectacular. We were all so proud. He wore a new charcoal silk suit that made him look so sexy. I understand that the superintendent of Austin schools was there, and Lee Atwater, [George H. W.] Bush’s campaign manager was there. What a trip!2...

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CHAPTER 16. “Have a Little Faith in Me”: Curb Cuts

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pp. 163-169

While the music business was taking most of their time and energy, Wendy and Delbert had not given up on having a baby. They learned about a very good clinic in Florida with the secondhighest success rate in the country, and decided to try in vitro fertilization. The first time, it didn’t work. They went back in the summer of 1992, and learned that she was already pregnant, the old-fashioned way. The doctor at the Florida clinic knew an...

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CHAPTER 17. Acquired Taste: The Millennial Groove

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pp. 170-179

In 1997, Delbert was finally released from the Curb contract, and opened a new door with the Universal subsidiary, Rising Tide. His first record with Rising Tide is still considered among his best. It had been a long time coming, and Delbert released an album full of pent-up energy. He says that he felt like Curb had held him prisoner, and time was of the essence.

Produced by Delbert, Gary Nicholson, and Emory Gordy Jr., it is evident that Ken Levitan at Rising Tide was putting a lot of...

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CHAPTER 18. “Sandy Beaches”: The Delbert Cruises

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pp. 180-187

Delbert played his first music cruise in 1992. What began as just another gig would become one of the most lucrative business ventures in the Delbert McClinton story, but like everything else in his career, it would not happen overnight. And even with Wendy’s skills, he would need additional help.

Gary Turlington had become a fan when he saw Delbert perform on Austin City Limits in 1976. A couple of years later, he saw...

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CHAPTER 19. “Sending Me Angels”: Family Ties and Old Friends

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pp. 188-193

Delbert likes to talk about his family and friends, and they like to talk about him. There is little doubt that his singular blend of life experiences have molded him into the musician, bandleader, songwriter, father, husband, and respected individual he is today.

Delbert admits that he has been three distinctly different fathers to his three children, Monty, Clay, and Delaney. Along the way, he is the first to say he hasn’t always made the best choices,...

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CHAPTER 20. “Best of Me”: Staying Power

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pp. 194-199

Truly “One of the Fortunate Few,” Delbert has managed to live his dreams, sometimes in spite of himself, expanding his roots to encompass the world, while continuing to color just outside the lines of any single genre. The stars have aligned for him. Those stars may have leaned toward the blues, but Delbert has managed to keep them on the bright side for the better part of seventy-seven years....

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Epilogue

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pp. 200-203

National Public Radio’s Scott Simon has just written a new biography with Tony Bennett. Much has happened in Tony’s life since the release of his first memoir—nearly twenty years ago—when he was seventy-two.

In twenty years, I plan to write the sequel to this book. Stay tuned.

The year 2017 marks his sixtieth year on stage and Delbert is at the top of his game. He is playing in major venues from New...

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Afterword

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pp. 204-206

Delbert McClinton and I had no formal agreement about this project. I wanted to chronicle Delbert’s story; I did not want this to be an “authorized” biography; and I wanted Delbert and Wendy to trust me to tell his story without limits or censure.

Beyond a typical biography, this is the story of the times as they were changing: a history of significant American musical moments and movements. The life and times of Delbert...

Appendix. Live Performance Song List

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pp. 207-208

Notes

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pp. 209-232

Selected Discography

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pp. 233-238

Bibliography

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pp. 239-242

Index

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pp. 243-254

Image Plates

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