Rock This House

Back before music fans morphed into gaming fans, before lip synching became the rage, before utter horseshit like American Idol was even a wet dream, there were thriving clubs and committed music freak club owners like Clifford Antone.

I was very sad to learn yesterday that Antone had died in Austin at the age of 56. No details yet as to when and why.

At this year's SXSW I was able to chat with Antone for a few minutes. He was his old self, talking in his slow Texas drawl about "booking the shit" out of bands, remembering the old glory days at his club up on Guadalupe where he had an office that was literally full of guitars on stands and where he made records like the classic Jimmy Rogers set Ludella which includes a roaring rendition of “Rock This House.”

A soft touch who routinely gave musicians money (yes, in his own way he was crazy), encouraged young performers, and served as a musical ambassador for the Austin scene, Antone also ran afoul of the law for smuggling pot and spent time in prison twice over the years. It was his love of blues, which he imported to Austin via his club, and the resulting cross pollination between elders and Texas players, not to mention his championing of sidemen like Hubert Sumlin, who Antone treated like royalty, that are his most lasting achievements.

That and the many, many great shows and wonderful gritty records he helmed over the years. I remember Clifford Antone worked into a lather managing road shows that he'd conceived and that were filled full of musicians whose egos could not co-exist on the same tour if it weren’t for Antone’s constant babysitting. The man was a mensch to the nth power.

If you don’t have them there a number of Antone’s Records, other than the Rogers set mentioned above, that are blues classics including Angela Strehli’s Soul Shake, Lou Ann Barton’s Read My Lips and Dreams Come True, the Antone–conceived combination of Strehli, Barton and Marcia Ball.

The American music scene has lost an irreplaceable giant.

Monty's picture

The local news here suggested Mr. Antone died of a heart attack.