Who was/is William Clarke ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more

William Clarke

Born on March 29, 1951 in Inglewood, California, William Clarke the son of a working class family, decided in 1987 to devote himself entirely to his music, quit his job as a mechanic, and spent the following ten years touring the USA and Europe.

With his ultra-human tone, his perfect fusion of Chicago-style blues with the swing and groove of the West Coast, he quickly found his way into the hearts of blues fans worldwide. As a harmonica player, he established himself alongside Charlie Musselwhite and Rod Piazza as one of the most influential blues stylists of the West Coast. He was not only a master of cross-harp playing. Above all his playing technique on the chromatic and his dynamics caused enthusiasm.

Clarke had come to the blues through the bands of the British Invasion, especially the Rolling Stones. Towards the end of the sixties he ventured onto the stages in and around Los Angeles as a harmonica player. At that time the metropolis in Southern California was home to great blues musicians like Pee Wee Crayton, Big Joe Turner, Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson, Big Mama Thornton or T-Bone Walker. But it was above all one of the outstanding harmonica virtuosos from Chicago who fascinated him most: George 'Harmonica' Smith, along with Little Walter, Walter Horton, Snooky Pryor and Junior Wells, is one of the best exponents of an early electric harmonica style from Chicago. In 1956 Smith came to the West Coast for a recording session for the Los Angeles-based RPM label and soon thereafter relocated his life to the south of California. 


Jeanette Lodovici (William Clarkes Witwe)


"I think you did a wonderful job on the LP. I want to thank you for believing in my late husband. My promise to Bill was that I keep his name alive ... he wanted to be remembered ... this LP will certainly help with that.❤   The packaging is just great. I have not been able to listen to it yet because I do not have a turntable at this time. But I will get one and I am sure I will enjoy listening to this."
Jeanette Lodovici, William Clarke's widow, July 9, 2019.


George Smith is to be owed the beautiful fusion of the hard beat from Chicago with the cool jazz groove of the music scene in L.A.. He first inspired Rod Piazza, born in 1947 in Riverside, California, who was one of the first young white West Coast musicians to record for the renowned BluesWay label with his Dirty Blues Band in 1967 and then led a band with George 'Harmonica' Smith under the name Bacon Fat.

From 1977 until Smith's death in 1983, Clarke worked with the Chicago blues legend and they made some recordings together. Before joining the successful Chicago label Alligator Records in 1990, William Clarke recorded five albums on his own between 1978 and 1988. Charming recordings, but one listens to the precarious financial circumstances under which they were made. During this time he worked part-time as an accompanist for Luke 'Long Gone' Miles, Smokey Wilson and others. He remained an insider tip, but nevertheless he became a living legend in the sworn community of the hard as nails blues fans 

With the signing of his contract with Alligator and the release of the new album ’Blowin' Like Hell’, Clarke's life turned upside down. He played more than 250 shows a year, toured constantly and recorded three more great albums for Bruce Iglauer's Alligator label.

Life in the fast lane eventually took its toll and led to severe health problems. After collapsing during a show on stage in Indianapolis, Clarke lived more consciously and healthily. But it was obviously too late. On November 2, 1996, he died after a last performance in Fresno, California. He was only 45 years old. With the death of Clarke, the blues world lost an exceptional artist, one of the best harmonicas players of all time, a virtuoso with perhaps the richest sound on this small instrument, an outstanding songwriter and a genius musician who merged the so different blues worlds from the far north and the deep south into his own thing like no other.

- Detlev Hoegen, May 2019




Né le 29 mars 1951 à Inglewood, Californie, William Clarke, fils d'une famille ouvrière, décide en 1987 de se consacrer entièrement à sa musique, quitte son emploi de mécanicien et passe les dix années suivantes en tournée aux Etats-Unis et en Europe.


Avec sa sonorité ultra-humaine, sa fusion parfaite du blues à la Chicago-style avec le swing et le groove de la côte ouest, il a rapidement trouvé sa place dans le cœur des fans de blues du monde entier. En tant qu'harmoniciste, il s'est imposé aux côtés de Charlie Musselwhite et Rod Piazza comme l'un des stylistes de blues les plus influents de la côte ouest. Il n'était pas seulement un maître du jeu des guimbardes. Surtout sa technique de jeu sur le chromatique et sa dynamique ont suscité l'enthousiasme.


Clarke était venu au blues par les groupes de l'invasion britannique, en particulier les Rolling Stones. Vers la fin des années soixante, il s'aventure sur les scènes de Los Angeles et des environs en tant qu'harmoniciste. À cette époque, la métropole du sud de la Californie abritait de grands musiciens de blues comme Pee Wee Crayton, Big Joe Turner, Eddie'Cleanhead' Vinson, Big Mama Thornton ou T-Bone Walker. Mais c'est surtout l'un des grands virtuoses de l'harmonica de Chicago qui l'a le plus fasciné : George'Harmonica' Smith, avec Little Walter, Walter Horton, Snooky Pryor et Junior Wells, est l'un des meilleurs représentants d'un premier style d'harmonica électrique de Chicago. En 1956, Smith est venu sur la côte ouest pour une session d'enregistrement pour le label RPM basé à Los Angeles et peu après, il a déménagé sa vie dans le sud de la Californie. 

George Smith doit la belle fusion du hard beat de Chicago avec le groove cool du jazz de la scène musicale de Los Angeles. Il a d'abord inspiré Rod Piazza, né en 1947 à Riverside, en Californie, qui fut l'un des premiers jeunes musiciens blancs de la côte ouest à enregistrer pour le célèbre label BluesWay avec son Dirty Blues Band en 1967 et a ensuite dirigé un groupe avec George'Harmonica' Smith sous le nom Bacon Fat.


De 1977 jusqu'à la mort de Smith en 1983, Clarke a travaillé avec la légende du blues de Chicago et a fait quelques enregistrements ensemble. Avant de rejoindre le label à succès Alligator Records de Chicago en 1990, William Clarke a enregistré cinq albums entre 1978 et 1988. Charmants enregistrements, mais on écoute les conditions financières précaires dans lesquelles ils ont été réalisés. Pendant ce temps, il a travaillé à temps partiel comme accompagnateur pour Luke'Long Gone' Miles, Smokey Wilson et d'autres. Il est resté un tuyau d'initié, mais il est néanmoins devenu une légende vivante dans la communauté jurée des fans de hard as nails blues.


Avec la signature de son contrat avec Alligator et la sortie du nouvel album ‚Blowin' Like Hell’, la vie de Clarkes est bouleversée. Il a joué plus de 250 spectacles par année, fait des tournées constantes et enregistré trois autres albums pour le label Alligator de Bruce Iglauer.


La vie sur la voie rapide a fini par faire des ravages et a entraîné de graves problèmes de santé. Après s'être effondré lors d'un spectacle sur scène à Indianapolis, Clarke a vécu plus consciemment et plus sainement. Mais c'était manifestement trop tard. Le 2 novembre 1996, il meurt après une dernière représentation à Fresno, en Californie. Il n'avait que 45 ans. Avec la mort de Clarke, le monde du blues a perdu un artiste exceptionnel, l'un des meilleurs harmonicas de tous les temps, un virtuose au son peut-être le plus riche de ce petit instrument, un auteur-compositeur hors pair et un musicien de génie qui a fusionné les univers si différents du blues du Grand Nord et du Grand Sud dans son propre style comme aucun autre.

- Detlev Hoegen, mai 2019




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Heavy Hittin' West Coast Harp (LP, 180gram Vinyl)
William Clarke: Heavy Hittin' West Coast Harp (LP, 180gram Vinyl) Art-Nr.: BAF18054

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1 LP (gatefold sleeve), lined inside pocket. 10 tracks. Total playing time approx. 42 minutes. • William Clarke (1951 - 1996) ranks alongside Rod Piazza among the most successful harmonica players from the George 'Harmonica' Smith school...
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L.A. Blues Party (CD)
William Clarke & Friends: L.A. Blues Party (CD) Art-Nr.: CDWD1257

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(Watch Dog) 19 tracks This cd is a re-release of two Black Magic cd's from the 1990's. 'Smokey Wilson & The William Clarke Band' and 'Hard Times- An LA Blues Anthology'. These recordings pre-date Bill's recordings for Alligator and...
The Hard Way
William Clarke: The Hard Way Art-Nr.: CDAL4842

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(1996 'Alligator') (55:00/13) Dies ist ganz einfach sein interessantestes und allgemein eins der herausragenden Harmonica-Alben von der Westküste überhaupt! Clarke hatte ein Konzept gefunden, das es ihm erlaubte, sich mit neuen...
Blowin' Like Hell
William Clarke: Blowin' Like Hell Art-Nr.: CDAL4788

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He was only known to a couple of thousand hardcore blues fans when this album came out. A killer set of blistering Chicago style harmonica with a great dose of west coast swing. Great production, too. A must for harmonica fans!
Serious Intentions
William Clarke: Serious Intentions Art-Nr.: CDAL4806

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(1992 'Alligator') (49:01/12) Album in etwas 'modernerem' Gewand, birgt sicherlich viele Geheimnisse für Harp-Fans / his follow-up to his '90 'Alligator' debut sounds more 'modern'; still a great one!!!
Groove Time
William Clarke: Groove Time Art-Nr.: CDAL4827

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(1994 'Alligator') (60:26/15) Sehr zu empfehlen / highly recommended! w/ ALEX SCHULTZ, KID RAMOS, LITTLE HENRY, GREG VERGINIO, BARRY LEVENSON, AL BLAKE - gtrs, JIMI BOTT, EDDIE CLARK - drums, etc.