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Multi-Grammy Award winner Delbert McClinton is “One of the Fortunate Few,” who has managed to live his dreams for more than six decades. The stars have aligned for Delbert. Those stars may have leaned toward the blues, but Delbert has managed to keep them on the bright side.
He was born four years after Buddy Holly in the musically fertile grounds of Lubbock, Texas. He cut his teeth on Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys at Lubbock’s legendary Cotton Club. When he was 12, Delbert’s family moved to Fort Worth so his father could work on the Rock Island Railroad.
As a teenager, Delbert had a backstage and front row seat to learn from the masters as his teenage band grew into the house band at Fort Worth’s Jack's Place on the Jacksboro Highway, backing blues legends like Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf, Freddie King, Albert Collins, and Gatemouth Brown.
His reputation grew, and when he was 22, he traveled with Bruce Channel to England to tour in support of Channel’s hit “Hey Baby,” on which he played harmonica. Delbert and John Lennon spent time over a period of several days. The two 22-year old young musician/singers had a lot in common.
Delbert explains, “The Beatles were opening for us on the tour. They would open the show, then I would play three songs or so, and then Bruce (Channel) would come out and we would do the headliner set. John wanted me to give him some tips on harmonica. The story’s been romanticized. I didn’t really teach him. I showed him what I did. When to suck and when to blow. Nothing really more than that. Although it was a moment in time.”
Delbert returned to Texas and continued playing with legendary blues musicians, hitting the road when he could. During the 1960s, he married and had a son, Monty, before the marriage crashed. He continued playing in and around Fort Worth until he took up with a female friend who had just gotten divorced. She talked him into heading to Los Angeles.
So McClinton moved to Los Angeles in the early 1970s to record with his songwriter partner, Glen Clark. The duo, under the name Delbert & Glen, released two albums with Atlantic Records. The relationship with the divorcee didn’t last long, but the day she left, he sat on the mattress in a dank rent house, and wrote a song about sweeping out a warehouse in West Los Angeles that became the first megahit for Emmylou Harris, “Two More Bottles of Wine.” And thus, began his series of “it’s all right” themes.