Bledsoe: Friends try to patch up the holes with soul

Clifford Curry is one of the most warm-hearted artists I've ever interviewed. He's the sort of guy who writes you a thank you note after a story appears. If he's proud of something he's done he'll call you up or write you a letter. He's the sort of guy who shows up to perform at benefits for other artists when they're in need. And, while he grew up in the waning days of segregation, he seems to have a fond memory of everyone he's ever encountered.

Chances are if you've been around Knoxville for any length of time you'll have seen his name or heard his fame. After performing in several Knoxville R&B acts, including the Five Pennies and the Bingos, in 1967 Clifford recorded the song "She Shot a Hole In My Soul." While the record barely made the Billboard Hot 100 nationally, in many local markets the song went to No. 1, and it has since been recognized as a classic. Clifford has since become one of the most beloved figures in Carolina Beach music. In Europe, his 45-rpm singles have become hot collector's items, with R&B and soul enthusiasts sometimes paying more than $2,000 apiece for them.

Last November, Clifford was returning from gigs in the Carolinas to his home in Nashville and began to feel so bad that he had to stop in Knoxville to rest.

He soon found himself in the University of Tennessee Medical Center where he was treated for blood clots in his lungs. He stayed in the hospital for two months before returning to Nashville. Clifford, long known as a tireless worker, is still recovering and unable to perform. Music friends have been helping Clifford pay bills until he can return to the stage.

Longtime oldies music promoters John and Bill Rutherford have been booking Clifford's shows in Knoxville since the early 1980s.

"I love the man to death," John told me last Thursday.

John recalled booking Maurice Williams ("Stay") a few years ago. When Williams had to cancel due to illness the night before the show, he gave Clifford a call. Clifford drove from Nashville the next day and filled in. When the Rutherfords worked with Box Tops member Gary Talley to raise money for Talley's ailing parents, Clifford was there to perform. It was the same when Dennis Yost needed money to pay medical bills. Clifford may be classified in the "one-hit wonder" category of rock 'n' roll, but he's always been more of a wonder to friends and fans.

This time it's Clifford who needs help. The Rutherford brothers have organized a benefit show on Wednesday, May 26, at Babe's Lounge, Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel, 7621 Kingston Pike. Troy Shondell (best known for his 1961 hit "This Time"), who met Clifford when both performed at the Dennis Yost benefit, will perform. Friends have donated $1,000 for prizes in a twist contest and there will be a raffle of oldies memorabilia.

Review

"Emotion & Commotion," Jeff Beck (Atco)

Of the three Yardbirds guitarists who became "gods," Jeff Beck is the one who never stopped growing. Eric Clapton seems content to dig ever further into vintage blues. Jimmy Page made his mark with Led Zeppelin and did little beyond that. Beck, though, went from the Jeff Beck Group to the amazing 1970s jazz-fusion discs "Blow By Blow" and "Wired" and then entered the new millennium blending electronic loops and samples with some of the most blistering playing of his career.

Yet, "Emotion & Commotion," Beck's first studio album in seven years, plays it safe. It's generally sweet (sometimes even meditative), includes guest vocalists (Joss Stone, Olivia Safe and Imelda May) and several numbers feature orchestral elements, including a version of Puccini's "Nessun Dorna," with Beck playing a guitar lead for the opera vocals. It's often beautiful, but slightly tame for the fieriest of the old gods. Overall, it's a lot more emotion than commotion.

Wayne Bledsoe may be reached at 865-342-6444 or bledsoew@knoxville.com. He is also the host of "All Over the Road" midnight Saturdays to 4 a.m. Sundays on WDVX-FM.

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