Clarence Carter
@ Arnellia's, October 11, 1997
This was my first time to this blues nightclub located on the midway in St. Paul. Located in an old bar, Arnellia's serves food and has a quaint atmosphere that was quite appealing. There is even a dress code, so no sneakers and tank tops please. But what was even more appealing was the performance of Clarence Carter.

He has a distinctive voice and a wicked sense of humor that is embodied in his great laugh, a lewd guttural chuckle that almost sounds evil at times. Many of his songs were of a bawdy nature that were more amusing than off-color coming from Carter. His show was a combination monologue, concert and stand up routine. He kept the enthusiastic crown in stitches for the entire show.

Whenever possible, he added his preaching or narration to the songs as he was singing. This was carried to the extreme on the Dan Penn & Chips Moman classic "At The Dark End of the Street" that was reworked in Clarence Carter fashion with nearly 4 minutes of preaching and just 30 seconds of singing. He sang many of his classics at this show that sure brought back the memories. Songs like "Slip Away," "Too Weak To Fight" and "Patches." He said in 1970 two things happened to him -- one bad and one good. "The bad? I got married. I've been married five times in all now. I don't know what went wrong? Cant' be me," he said with a chuckle, "because I've been the same the whole time." "The good," he said "was this song that went to #1 - 'Patches.'" It was very good for us too.

Blind since birth Carter has a great sense of humor. For example, at the start of his show he said "when my office told me I got to go to Minneapolis, I went and got a map and looked at it. It sure was a long way." When he sang his hit song "Dr. CC," his lascivious chuckle, only punctuated the meaning of the lyrics. Lyrics like, "I don't work in the day time, I do all my doctoring at night...get your medicine from me." He added at the end of the song that CC stood for "Climax Control," as if it wasn't already apparent. He closed his all to short set with his 1986 hit "Strokin'" which really got the responsive audience up and dancing. They even had "Strokin'" merchandise for sale -- caps, t shirts and underwear. Little panties that one of the male fans put on over his pants and started dancing with.

Born in Montgomery, Alabama on January 14, 1936 Carter attended the Alabama School for the Blind at Talladega (the same school that produced the Blind Boys of Alabama gospel group who put on a great show at the Bayfront Blues Festival this summer). He got his first guitar at age 11 and learned how to play by listening to the records of John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins and Jimmy Reed. Even though he was blind he attended Alabama Stage College, at Montgomery, where in 1960, he graduated with a BS Degree in music. Quite an accomplishment at that time.

His recording career began in the early 60's with Duke Records where he said "one of the funniest things about the experience with Duke happened the day when we received our first royalty check that amounted to twenty-five cents!" In the mid 60's he made a wise move and signed with Fame (Atlantic) Records, located in Muscle Shoals, Alabama where he learned how to write songs, how to sing professionally and how songs were produced. This was a very productive time for Carter as he had three hits that were all in the top ten. "Slip Away," "Too Weak To Fight" and "Patches."

Surviving some tough times during the late 70's Carter signed as the first artist for Ichiban Records in 1985 where he has released 6 albums including the one most people remember, "Doctor C.C" that had the hit song "Strokin'." This was a fun show and I sure am looking forward to seeing him again.

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Copyright 1997 by Ray M. Stiles

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