Gospel-trained Mississippi native who moved to Chicago as a youngster, recently released a rare new album, This Time Around (Bullseye Blues), which pairs him with Willie Mitchell, who produced most of Clay's output during his Hi Records glory years (1968-74).
Nominated for Soul/Blues - Male Artist of the Year Handy Award in 1996, Clay, who is going to be touring the US & Europe in support of the album, is also the chairman of the board for Tobacco Road, an organization turning the former site of the Regal Theater into the Lou Rawls Theater, a music museum, skating rink, stores and restaurants...
Clay joined the gospel/pop harmony group Blue Jay Quartet of Birmingham at the age of 15, and worked with a number of gospel groups in the late '50s and early '60s (by which time he was already known as one of the country's finest soul singers). Was a very influential R&B artist during the '60s and '70s -- hits like "That's How It Is (When You're in Love)" for the Chicago soul label One-derful and "Trying to Live My Life Without You" are monuments to the genre. One-derful folded in 1968, and Clay's contract was sold to an Atlantic subsidiary, Cotillion. in 1971, we went to work with the legendary Memphis label, Hi Records, where he worked with Al Green, Syl Johnson, and many others. There, he recorded the soul hit "Trying to Live my Life Without You" which later -- covered by rocker Bob Seger -- made it to #5 on the pop charts.
Since then, Clay has recorded infrequently (he claims he doesn't hear much in today's R&B), but has continued to perform live. Clay still plays the West Side and North Side blues scenes, about once a month. He's well-worth seeing, because the same voice which rages through a fiery blues number or a romantic ballad equally well.
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