BILL CLIFTON: AMERICA’S BLUEGRASS AMBASSADOR TO THE WORLD

RR-CLIFTON-BOOKBILL CLIFTON: AMERICA’S BLUEGRASS AMBASSADOR TO THE WORLD—BY BILL C. MALONE—Univ. of Illinois Press 9780252082009. Paperback, 184 pp., b&w photos, discography, $19.95. (Univ. of Illinois Press, 1325 S. Oak St., Champaign, IL 61820, press.uillinois.edu.)

Bill Clifton’s influence on folk, country, bluegrass, and old-time music is immeasurable. In this new biography, author Bill Malone takes the reader on an in-depth look into the life and career of Clifton. Malone chronicles how Clifton’s love for the music came from radio programs such as the Old Dominion Barn Dance and the Wheeling Jamboree, as well as attending concerts. Clifton formed bands with folks such as Paul Clayton, Johnny Clark, and Mike Seeger, playing area clubs and beginning to record. He graduated from the University of Virginia with a master’s degree and spent a couple of years in The Marines. In 1955, he published his book 150 Old-Time Folk And Gospel Songs, perhaps one of the most influential songbooks of its time, including many of which have become standards—songs such as “Little Maggie,” “I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight,” “Long Journey Home,” and “Little Whitewashed Chimney.”

Malone details how, in 1961, Clifton formed what was the first one-day bluegrass festival with sets from Jim & Jesse, the Country Gentlemen, the Stanley Brothers, and others. Malone follows the Clifton family on their relocation to England in 1963, where he played local venues and clubs there and elsewhere around Europe, spreading the music to new listeners. Clifton joins the Peace Corps in 1967, spending three years performing in the Philippines and New Zealand.  Back in England, Clifton made many trips back to the U.S. to perform at festivals and venues, finally moving back permanently to Virginia around 1980. Through this book, the reader will learn of Clifton’s longtime relationships with A.P. Carter, Red Rector, Don Stover, Pete Kuykendall, John Duffey, Jimmy Gaudreau, and many, many more. In 2008, Clifton was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame. Malone’s research for the book is based on interviews with Clifton himself as well as friends, family, former bandmates and associates. This is a great read into one of our wonderful musical influences.BF

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