To sum up Gary Clark Jr. is more challenging every day. He’s a musical universe unto himself,
expanding at a nearly immeasurable rate, ever more hard to define — as a mind-blowing guitarist, a
dazzling songwriter and engagingly soulful singer.
With his debut album Blak And Blu he has just become the first artist ever recognized by the Recording
Academy with Grammy Award nominations in both the rock and R&B categories for the same album in
the same year, winning the latter: Best Traditional R&B Performance” - “Please Come Home” (from the
album Blak And Blu). And the day after claiming those honors he provided one of the highlights of the
highlights-filled “The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles,” with sparks flying
as he dueled with Joe Walsh on an incendiary “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” Dave Grohl behind them
pounding the drums.
But that barely scratches the surface. The album’s a rocket ride from the Mississippi Delta of a century
ago to multiple points still out beyond the horizon. Rock and R&B sure, but blues, soul, pop, psychedelia,
punk and hip-hop are also in Clark’s expansive musical embrace and insatiable hunger for inspiration,
which he’s internalized into music all his own. And his two acoustic blues performances on the soundtrack
album for the acclaimed movie 12 Years a Slave show the distinct talent and personality he brings to his
That, in turn, has been inspirational to others — including some who inspired him. Just ask Eric Clapton,
the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Jay-Z, Jimmy Page, Alicia Keys, the Roots, Buddy guy, Dave
Matthews, Roger Waters, Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow, Jeff Beck, among the many who hailed his arrival
as a major talent and cherished chances to perform with him. It’s no accident that he was invited to make
more “special guest” appearances on the Stones’ recent 50th anniversary tour than any other artist,
including the concluding Hyde Park blowout in which he and band also were the opening act.
Or ask President Barak Obama himself, who seeing Clark command the stage of the PBS White
House concert honoring the blues — with Jagger, Beck, B.B. King and Buddy Guy among the veterans
performing — declared of the young man, “He’s the future.”
Rolling Stone dubbed Clark “The King of the Summer Festivals” as he captivated audiences from
Coachella to Glastonbury, Lollapalooza to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, from Metallica’s
Orion Festival to Jay-Z’s Made in America, and of course his hometown Austin City Limits Festival, where
he his band set a daytime attendance record. He’s dominated late night and daytime TV with multiple
appearances on Leno, Letterman, Kimmel, Conan, Fallon, Arsenio Hall, Queen Latifah, Today, CBS This
Morning and so on. Guitar Player magazine made him the first emerging artist to grace its cover in more
than 15 years. Rolling Stone proclaimed him no less than “The Chosen One.”
It’s a lot to live up to, but through it all his musical ambition and reach continue to grow. New songs he’s
previewed to delighted audiences show him exploring ever further combinations of sounds and styles, all
with his distinct stamp.
A man of few words, he’s quietly grateful that the music he makes his way has connected with so many.
“To think a weird idea I noodled on at the house has gone to something 40,000 people might hear at a
festival is an indescribable feeling,” he told Esquire recently. “As cool as I might try to be, I think, ‘Oh my
God, this is real!’”