Eric Clapton

Me & Mr. Clapton

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The people we idolize when we are young can have such a lasting impact on our lives. Sometime in junior high school I discovered the music of Eric Clapton. This was a pivotal moment in my journey. Clapton was one of the first players I came across that used his guitar as an extension of his voice. I was obsessed with my new found guitar hero, and spent most of my teenage years studying every nuance of his playing and legacy. I've even owned two of his signature Stratocasters.

I quickly identified with Clapton’s persona. He seems a bit introverted and shy, and really lets his music do the talking. His stage shows typically have a pretty simple set up - not a lot of flash, and he is always diplomatic when it comes to sharing the stage. This is something I’ve always tried to embody as a performer. Surrounding yourself with excellent musicians and allowing them space to shine is one the greatest thrills of being on stage.

One of the first Clapton records I got my hands on was a live CD/DVD recording called One More Car, One More Rider. I probably watched that thing hundreds of times. Many members of his live band are some of my favorite players today - Nathan East, Steve Gadd, and Billy Preston - just to name a few. The first time I saw Clapton in concert I remember being overwhelmed to the point of tears.

Whether Clapton is your guitar hero or not, it’s hard to deny his impact on blues and rock music. I think his larger legacy is keeping blues music alive. Clapton has put the spotlight on so many blues artists that may have fallen by the wayside in their later years - B.B. King, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy , JJ Cale - the list goes on and on. He also paved the way for so many younger players from Richie Sambora to John Mayer. Clapton is largely responsible for introducing Bob Marley's music to American audiences as well. 

I imagine our childhood heroes are much like our first boyfriends or girlfriends. Even though we go on to experience other things, they always hold a special place in our hearts. I still find inspiration in Eric’s records today. I saw recently he will be playing two dates this fall at Madison Square Garden. I’ll probably grab a ticket -  it will most likely be my last chance to see my hero. 

The End of an Era.

Happy New Year! I hope 2017 is off to a roaring start for all of you. Please pardon my absence from writing, I have been ill for a while and then was on the road. I’m now back in Chicago and feeling great just in time for the new year. During my recent travels back to North Carolina over the holiday I was able to stop by one of my most favorite places in the world - 1218 Charlottetowne Ave, better known as The Double Door Inn.

The Double Door has been a Charlotte institution and destination for music fans and musicians alike since it opened it’s doors in 1973.  It has fostered many generations musicians including myself and so many of my colleagues. The likes of Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn have graced the Double Door stage as well as countless blues and rock ‘n’ roll greats. Even before I was old enough to get in the Double Door was on my radar.

From the outside it doesn’t look like much. The worn paint and sagging roof make it easy to overlook. Inside the walls are lined with photos of bands and artists that have performed on it's stage. From Leon Russell to Pinetop Perkins, the Double Door is really a sanctuary of the blues. When I was finally old enough to get in the bar I quickly became a regular on Monday nights.

Photographs of bluesmen cover the walls of The Double Door

Photographs of bluesmen cover the walls of The Double Door

 

Every Monday night for some twenty odd years a group of Charlotte’s best musicians have gathered to form a band that became known as The Monday Night Allstars. Led for many years by my mentor’s mentor the great Charles Hairston, Monday nights became legendary for the band’s powerful mix of classic r&b and soul music. I’ve seen performances on that stage that I will remember for the rest of my life. The band has had a few personnel changes through the years but it has always delivered some of the best music I’ve ever heard.

Over my Christmas visit to North Carolina I set foot in this sacred place for the last time. By the time you are reading this the Double Door will have officially closed it’s doors for good. My last Monday night visit was extraordinary. There was a line out the door as the club was at capacity. Band members from all eras of the band were present to display their talents one last time. As I listened to the music that night I couldn’t help but think of all the incredible nights I’ve spent immersed in the sounds that I love so much.

I remember all the incredible musicians that I’ve met at the Double Door. The great Jim Brock, Ziad Rabie, Chris Allen, Joe Lindsay, Rick Blackwell - several of these characters make appearances on my record. I would always sit in the front row so I could study their every note. The first time I got to sing on the stage I remember being terrified. I remember being moved to tears by an amazing version of “People Get Ready” by Carey Sims and the band. I remember the first time I met my dear friends Pat and Jessica as we bonded over our shared love of music. The Double Door has been a formative experience in my life and I think most every musician in Charlotte shares that sentiment.


The next time I roll into town the old bar will be gone. I’ve heard a parking deck is taking it’s place - there’s a blues song if I ever heard one. Of course I’m sad it’s all over, but I feel so lucky that I got to experience all the things I did thanks to the Double Door. The only thing we can ever be sure of is that everything will change. As we begin this new year we can honor those things no longer with us by being present wherever we are, and taking a minute to appreciate the beauty and talent around us. Check out some video of the Double Door below.