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Mystery And Manners Honorary Southern Artist(s) Part Six: Clarence White

Posted: May 02, 2008

Mystery And Manners Honorary Southern Artist(s)—PART SIX
Clarence White
By James Calemine

“Tempted and tried
We’re oft made to wonder…”
--the Flying Burrito Brothers

Clarence White commands a Mystery And Manners Honorary mention since his guitar playing influenced anyone interested in bluegrass, country or rock and roll music. A tragic musical figure in hindsight...

Born in Maine and raised in California, Clarence White grew up in a musical family that, among other significant musical accomplishments, landed appearances on the Andy Griffith show for their musical prowess.

In the early 60s White played in the Kentucky Colonels. He became a sought after session man, which lured many requests…including Doc Watson. White played on a Byrds session that became the country album Sweetheart of the Rodeo, navigated by Gram Parsons. White’s playing laced the Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Parsons’ musical accomplices Sneaky Pete Kleinow and Glen D. Hardin joined a band with White called Nashville West. A song titled “Nashville West”--on the Byrds’ Untitled album--preserves the sheer brilliance of Clarence White.

When Parsons left the Byrds to form the Flying Burrito Brothers, Clarence White joined in 1968 and stayed until Roger McGuinn pulled the plug on the Byrds in 1973.
Along with Gene Parsons (not Gram) White invented a device called the b-bender, which essentially produces a pedal steel sound on a guitar. Jimmy Page and Mike Campbell always utilized this quicksilver twang with eloquent precision.

In his short life, White also played with Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, Phil Ochs, Arlo Guthrie, Delaney & Bonnie, Muleskinner, Joe Cocker, Jackson Browne and the Everly Brothers. On July 14, 1973, White was tragically killed by a drunk driver. Gram Parsons sang “Farther Along” at White’s funeral, where Gram’s proverbial request was made that he wanted to be cremated in the desert. Parsons died two and a half months later, and his strange burial rite remains well-known.

Only James Burton contends with Clarence White as a master of the classic telecaster twang. White’s work requires investigating. Hallmark classics--besides everything he played on--include: “Nashville West”, “Time Between”, “The Girl With No Name” and “Build It Up”.

For further investigations, purchase The Byrds’ Untitled, Sweetheart of the RodeoYounger Than Yesterday  and Doc Watson's Treasures Untold, Marc Benno's Minnows and Rita Coolidge's debut album. White's work is that of a master...

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PenneElk says...

I am very impressed with this series--as I am with all of your work. It is an honor to be on the same page with you and Buffalo. :-)

michaelbuffalo says...

Clarence White is a true hero of mine as a guitarist and I even own a CW b-bender on my 67 Tele. What a cool invention. SWEETHEART was my all time favorite Byrds record, mostly because of the Parsons and White input.... Nice article James....

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