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Clifford Antone

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Blues legend Clifford Antone dies
Cause of death hasn't been determined.
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Clifford Antone, whose namesake Austin club has been a national landmark for the blues for more than 30 years, was found dead this afternoon in his Town Lake condominium, Austin police said. He was 56.

Police spokeswoman Laura Albrecht said officers responded to a call at an apartment at the Towers of Town Lake on Interstate 35 around 1:15 p.m. They found Antone dead shortly after they arrived, Albrecht said.

"It appears to be nonsuspicious," she said.

The cause of death has not been determined pending results of an autopsy.

The Port Arthur native opened the club (originally at Sixth and Brazos streets) essentially to showcase the bluesmakers he adored. He celebrated 30 years of acts at the club last summer.

Since 2003, when founder Antone was serving time for a 1999 conviction on drug and money-laundering charges, the club has been managed and booked by Direct Events, an Austin production company. But that didn't stop Antone from introducing acts and holding forth at the club.

Antone was 25 when he founded the club.

"My friends and I in Port Arthur just wanted to hear the blues," he said last year. "We figured the only way we could hear it is if we bring it to us. It was like that movie 'Field of Dreams.' "

He said that "between '75 and '85, I don't think there's any question we were the best blues club in the world."

The club became what sociologist Ray Oldenburg famously called a "great good place," where fans, local musicians and the legends both worshipped and could mingle.

"Stevie Vaughan and Albert King got to meet," Antone said. "These crucial relationships were built here. You know, Muddy (Waters) gets the Thunderbirds a tour after he plays with them, that sort of thing. I think we changed the course of blues history."

Guitarist Eve Monsees, who also works at Antone's Record store on Guadalupe Street, recalled Antone as "always sharing stories about some of the blues greats who'd played the club."

She said that Antone called her and Gary Clark Jr. to the stage at his club when they were both 15 years old.

"It was something I'll always remember."
Published in Austin American-Statesman on May 23, 2006
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