Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Clay Kirkland's Fender Frontman 15

It was an amazing performance. At one of the Denver prelims of the International Blues Challenge, Clay Kirkland blew everyone away with a harp performance that rivetted the audience. His band was only three pieces (harp, guitar, bass) amid a roster of big blues power bands, some of which were among the cream of the crop of Denver blues acts. The room was filled with the Denver blues heavyweights, yet they gave Clay Kirkland two standing ovations during his 25-minute set, and he walked away the winner.

All that is pretty amazing, but here is the really amazing part. His harp amp was a Fender Frontman 15R, pictured above. That's right... He won the day with a cheap little solid state amp that is bundled with a Squire Strat in a $200 "Guitar Starter Kit" at Wal-Mart. It isn't even the new model of the
Frontman 15 that sells for $79.99. It's a late-90s version that sold for even less.

Clay's tone was awesome: both sweet and nasty. His mic was a cool old Shure PE585V, the mic he's been using since he saw James Cotton use one in 1970. He ran it through an
Ibanez Delay Champ, a pedal long out of production. He played a long slow tribute to SBW and James Cotton that had the audience hanging on every note. His closing song was one of the best versions of "Help Me" I've heard, with dynamics that swung from you-can-hear-a-pin-drop lows to crashing crescendos. It was quite a performance.

One of the bands Clay beat that day was mine, and I have zero shame in saying I was rooting for him to win. Dude was G-O-O-D! He made that cheap little amp sound better than most big expensive boutique amps I've heard.


Rick Davis said...

Clay also plays through a 1978 Mesa Booge amp, from back in the day when those amps were hand made in a garage. He gives lessons, too, which I am seriously considering signing up for...

Jack said...

Guess I'm totally out of the Denver harp loop....where was the event held? I'm a big fan of Clay and his sound!

Rick Davis said...

Hi Jack-

The venue was El Chupultepec Too on W. 38th Ave & Perry. Clay will be playing at the finals of the IBC at The Outlook in Boulder on Sept. 13. That is not to be missed. I'll be there most of the day: attending a Ronnie Shellist seminar on 1st and 3rd position, enjoying the Denver IBC finals, and playing at Lionel Young's blues jam immediately following.

Clay will also be playing up in Evergreen at the famous Little Bear Saloon on the Friday before the IBC finals.