The Night Starkey & Clark Came to Town
As host of Sutton’s Old Time Music Hour, I have the privilege of hearing some of the best talent that old time & bluegrass music has to offer. Each and every Saturday night, a different band graces the corner stage at T.B. Sutton’s General store, playing to a crowd that ranges from acoustic music buffs to tourists. The musicians have the added benefit of their performance being recorded for broadcast on 43 radio stations, including WSM. Since we are located in the small town of Granville, Tennessee, halfway between Nashville and Knoxville, the acts that come to play here, young or old, are always top-notch. But, this past Saturday night was a little different, and I mean that in a very good way.
Guitarist, Richard Starkey, and mandolin player, Bobby Clark, have played Sutton’s many times, over the years, with various bands. I knew their individual talent is through the roof, but I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive of their first appearance here as Starkey & Clark. You see, here at Sutton’s Old Time Music Hour, we always have, at least four, or five musicians on stage picking and fiddling away. Heck, sometimes even six, or seven crammed onto our tiny stage. How well were just these two men going to fill an hour of radio time, plus, entertain a packed house? Well, we were about to find out, one way or the other.
As soon as Bobby and Richard walked in the door, a feeling came over me that’s a little hard to describe. As if, maybe, something special was about to take place that night. They were calm, cool and collected, from the top of their Stetson fedora-style hats to the bottoms of their vintage dress shoes. Their neck ties, matching cotton shirts and khaki trousers, completed a look I remember seeing in old, black and white photographs of the Monroe Brothers, and Delmore Brothers. Why even their tweed instrument cases had a vintage vibe. They were pleasant and cordial, as always, but, soon had the mandolin and guitar out, warming up on a couple of choruses, as the crowd was starting to file in. These guys were hyper-focused on their music, almost as if they were in their own little world. It was easy to see, Starkey & Clark were here on a mission, and I could hardly wait, in anticipation of what was to come!
Soon, we were going “live,” and, almost before the words, “make welcome Starkey and Clark,” were out of my mouth, Richard’s D-45 Martin guitar was ripping into a bold and lively version of Uncle Dave Macon’s “Way Down Town.” As the applause died down, Bobby’s mandolin was busting into the Monroe Brother’s “New River Train.” It was obvious these boys showed up to entertain! As I looked around the audience, all I saw were toes tapping, heads nodding in time with the music, and smiling faces everywhere. As for the music, the vocals were spot on, the sound was full and driving, the tone of the instruments was warm and balanced. The stage patter was relaxed and off the cuff, with a few little funny quips, here and there, which seemed to draw the audience closer to what was happening onstage. As they eased through their repertoire, which included Carter Family, Jimmy Rodgers, the Delmores, and Doc Watson songs, with a few tasty original instrumentals thrown in for good measure, I found myself being transported into a state of mind, where the music and the historic surroundings of the early 1900’s general store were beginning to become a very surreal place to be. The audience seemed captivated by that vibe, also. They were thoroughly entertained by Starkey & Clark, as evidenced by the number of folks coming up afterward to shake and howdy, get their copy of the new CD release Freight Train Boogie(which I highly recommend), or just pat them on the back and say “well done.”
As I said earlier, when Starkey & Clark first arrived for their show at Sutton’s Store that night, they seemed to be on a “mission.” Well, judging by the crowd response and wonderful music I heard, all I have to say to them is “mission accomplished!”
Sam Stout, Host and Creator of Sutton's Ole Time Radio Hour