Lightning Red and his series on the origins of the modern electric
blues, and the techniques and hardware used by the legends to get their
Austin Legend Clifford Antone was sentenced in federal court to serve four years in prison, fined $25,000, and ordered to do 750 hours of community service in East Austin upon his release. Pleading guilty to charges of being involved in distributing an estimated 15,000 pounds of marijuana in the early '90s, Clifford continues to publicly maintain his innocence as do his closest friends and business associates.
After opening the original Antone's night club in the former furniture store at 6th and San Jacinto streets in 1975 with limited funds and a lot of sweat equity, word was quickly spread throughout the Chicago blues community by Sunnyland Slim who told everyone from Muddy Waters to Jimmy Reed that "Antwan's" was the place that "treated blues folks like royalty" and paid everyone well. Before long, a steady stream of soon-to-be blues legends including Buddy Guy and Otis Rush were making regular treks to Antone's Texas' home of the blues.
Regular headliners at Antone's Guadalupe Street location included Albert Collins and Albert King, and special appearances by nearly every heavyweight in the blues, R&B and zydeco worlds including an especially mesmerizing performance by John Lee Hooker in which he performed solo to an eerily silent crowd seated motionless on the usually-hectic dance floor.
I fondly recall watching an early incarnation of the Fabulous Thunderbirds at the original location with Clifford Antone tending bar, Angela Strehli working the sound board and my wife being the only other patron in the club at that early hour. Jimmie Vaughan coaxed well-thought-out, subtle signature licks from his early-model white Stratocaster, Kim Wilson blew us away with his powerful Little Walter-style runs and strong vocals. Keith Ferguson walked up and down his lefthanded model Fender Telecaster bass, and "Hub Cap" pounded out the rhythm on the drums.
Stevie Ray Vaughan traded licks note-for-note with Albert King under Clifford's watchful eye, and Albert eventually came to refer to "Little" Stevie as his "son," and cut an album with the budding guitar genius that has just recently been released.
If you've ever met or done business with Clifford Antone, or watched him protect and nurture one his many blues idols to a higher level of respect or even international stardom, there is no doubt that his first love is the blues. When Hubert Sumlin's career was at a low ebb, Clifford took him into his home and told him, "You've got a home as long as I've got one."
I think I speak for everyone who appreciates great music by wishing Clifford Antone good health and God's speed. As he's done previously, Clifford will be back to help and support his heroes in the often-neglected true American art form. God Bless you Clifford.
- Lightning Red
Southwest Blues Magazine
July 2000 volume 3 edition 32