Filed Under:

Gary Clark Jr.: A Blues Wunderkind Grows Up, Breaks Out

It's been a while since pop-music writers have heaped praise on a blues guitarist as the next big thing. But that's what's happened with Gary Clark Jr., who's just put out his first full-length album on a major label. It's called Blak and Blu.

While the album is new, Clark is not. In fact, he might be the worst-kept, best secret in Austin, Texas. Clark, 28, spent his early teens playing blues clubs in the vibrant 6th Street music scene of downtown Austin, learning from — and impressing — blues legends along the way.

"I was 14 years old when I first played an Austin club," Clark tells NPR's Audie Cornish. "I was hanging out with a friend of mine for her birthday; she wanted to go to this blues bar. They were having this blues jam, and she was like, 'You should get up on stage.' And I went with it."

Clark says the biggest hurdle of that first performance was just understanding what the other musicians were saying.

"The phrases that they used, I wasn't ready for that," he says. "They called out something like, 'We're gonna play a shuffle in the key of G; start from the five.'" And I was like, 'What is that?' I spent the first half of the song just trying to get familiar [and] figure out exactly what they meant."

Clark continued playing around town and quickly picked up a reputation. By the time he was 17, the mayor had declared a "Gary Clark Jr. Day" in Austin. Two years ago, Clark broke out on the national stage when he played at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival.

Here, Clark chats with Audie Cornish about his double life as a high-school student and local music sensation, and tells the stories behind a few of the tracks on Blak and Blu.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


'Washington Post' Reporter Explores How Pop Culture Influences Views Of Police

NPR's Kelly McEvers talks to Washington Post reporter Alyssa Rosenberg, who has written a series for the paper about how Hollywood and pop culture has influenced the way the public perceives police.

In 'Appetites,' Bourdain Pleases The Toughest Food Critic (His 9-Year-Old)

Anthony Bourdain's new cookbook features comfort food he cooks for his young daughter. "She's who I need to please, and if she's not happy, I'm not happy," he says.

Colorado Votes On A Ballot Measure To Make It Harder To Pass Ballot Measures

Voters can amend their state's constitution: think legalization of pot. But some Coloradans say citizen initiatives are out of control, and a well-funded push is underway to raise the bar.

R.I.P. Vine: Twitter To Retire App In Financial Restructuring

One of the Internet's quirkiest outlets for creativity is being shut down. Vine is where people post six second videos, which play in a loop. Twitter owns Vine and announced Thursday that in coming months it will end the app as part of its financial restructuring.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.