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


No Meekness Here: Meet Rosa Parks, 'Lifelong Freedom Fighter'

As the 60th anniversary of the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott approaches, author Jeanne Theoharis says it's time to let go of the image of Rosa Parks as an unassuming accidental activist.

Internet Food Culture Gives Rise To New 'Eatymology'

Internet food culture has brought us new words for nearly every gastronomical condition. The author of "Eatymology," parodist Josh Friedland, discusses "brogurt" with NPR's Rachel Martin.
WAMU 88.5

World Leaders Meet For The UN Climate Change Summit In Paris

World leaders meet for the UN climate change summit in Paris to discuss plans for reducing carbon emissions. What's at stake for the talks, and prospects for a major agreement.


Payoffs For Prediction: Could Markets Help Identify Terrorism Risk?

In a terror prediction market, people would bet real money on the likelihood of attacks. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Stephen Carter about whether such a market could predict — and deter — attacks.

Leave a Comment

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