Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Clifford Antone Dies

Austin nightclub patriarch Clifford Antone was found dead this afternoon in his Town Lake condominium. Antone was 56. Cause of death is undetermined pending autopsy, but police said it appeared to be non-suspicious.

Although Antone's is no longer a blues club in the truest sense, the club was a pivotal linchpin in the development of a new circuit that showcased legends like Muddy Waters, Albert King and John Lee Hooker in their twilight years alongside then-upstarts like Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. When Antone's opened its doors at Sixth and Brazos in 1975, there was hardly any blues circuit left.

"The hardest time was right around '75," Antone told Margaret Moser in a 2001 Austin Chronicle feature. "That's why we became so close with Jimmy (Reed), Clifton (Chenier), Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Walter Shakey Horton, and Sunnyland Slim. Some of them had never been to Texas. Some of them no one wanted anywhere, and here's this club of kids devoted to the blues. It just blew them away."

Despite Antone's well-publicized troubles with the law - he served two and a half years in federal prison for marijuana distribution and money laundering before being paroled in 2002 - he remained an iconic figure in Austin culture. It is sad to see him go.

Photo by Kelly West, Austin American-Statesman

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