Clinton Short is an OCCC computer programming major in his second semester. But on evenings and weekends, he picks up a Fender guitar and goes by the name Blue — one half of the blues/country band named Blue Country.
On Friday, June 4, they performed a free show at the Stone Pony, a bar located off the corner of SE 10th Street and Macarthur Boulevard, which is a dark, smoke filled venue whose clientele is people over 25 who tolerate the taste of cheap liquor.
“I like the guys in Blue Country, so we’re making them our official house band on Fridays and Sundays,” said Kelly Bradshaw, the bar’s owner.
Upon taking the stage, Blue gives off the aura of a mythic six string samurai.
Dressed in a red silk karate shirt and sporting a white martial arts headband, Blue and the band brought in a mélange of people as bikers took shots at the bar and a nicely-dressed middle-aged couple played billiards.
Blue plays lead guitar with a clean toned, whammied out style similar to Stevie Ray Vaughn. He is backed up by his mentor, rhythm guitarist John Wesley. They’ve played together for 17 years.
Wesley, or J.W. as he likes to be called, is a 57-year-old American Indian whose speech is constantly interrupted by manic laughter. He said he has a master’s degree in classical performing arts from UCLA and has played guitar for 42 years.
Together, Blue and Wesley share a sorrowful past, deeply rooted in the blues.
“When I was a kid, my brother committed suicide,” Blue said. “So my mother handed me his guitar and said ‘he can’t play it anymore, it’s yours.’”
One of Blue Country’s original songs, a shadowy southern rock crooner called “Wayne” is about Blue’s parents sinking into drug abuse and having their lives destroyed by it, he said.
“When I was 13, my mother got put in jail for drugs. I went home, but my parents weren’t there. The only person there was J.W.,” said Blue, who was interrupted by Wesley, finishing his sentence.
“He showed up at my doorstep with two guitars and a Marshall Stax amplifier,” Wesley said. “I told him I’d teach him everything I know.”
Blue and Wesley make up one half of the group. Adding in the country flavor is singer and bassist, Kevin “Hoot” Stinson, drummer Adam Comer and multi-instrumentalist Gary Maloy.
Hoot, an African-American cowboy with a leading man’s face, sings in a smooth mournful voice, perfect for country music. He dons a black Stetson hat and does the one-foot chicken stomp along to the beat of the music onstage.
He said everyone calls him Hoot because friends liken him to Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish.
“When I write a song, all I care about is expressing myself,” Hoot said.
“One of my songs is called “Ten Miles to Town.” It’s about my parents divorcing when I was young.
“They got into a fight, and my mom packed the car and drove away. But what if she stopped 10 miles out of town and turned around to find my Dad?”
Wesley said blues is rooted in all music.
“All music is a circle that returns to the Blues,” he said.
“If music is from the heart, it’s the blues. If you listen to Beethoven’s 4th Symphony, it’s pretty obvious that brother had the blues.”
For more information, call Stone Pony at 405- 943-7372.