Guy Clark Tribute – Joe Specht of Abilene, Texas

The following is an account of the Guy Clark Tribute with Verlon Thompson and Shawn Camp as told by Joe Specht of Abilene, Texas:

We wanted to share the text of two emails sent out to a large group of music history buffs by Joe Specht of Abilene, Texas, who, along with his brother-in-law Ken Wilson of Dripping Springs, was in attendance at the Thursday performance of the Guy Clark Tribute show.  Joe is noted music historian and has been collecting information on Guy Clark for many years.  Below is the text of  the two emails combined, slightly edited by David Murrah. It is an excellent summary of the show.


Thursday morning your humble reporter was behind the wheel and our elder brother-in-law was in shotgun seat leaving Dripping Springs and heading for Rockport via Kyle, San Marcos, Luling, Gonzales, Cuero, Victoria, Tivoli, and Rockport.

Upon arriving, we met-up with Dr. Murrah at the La Palma Event Center.  Here David gave us our marching orders: Ken and I were to be responsible for checking tickets for the reserved seating area down front.  The Aransas County Historical Society (ACHS), under the leadership of Cheryl Livingston, had been hard at work putting this event together, and they did themselves proud.

We came back over at 4 o’clock for the sound check as Mr. Thompson and Mr. Camp breezed into the parking lot.  Verlon remembered us from 2011 West Texas Book & Music Festival, and we got to meet Shawn for the first time.  The boys travel lite: two ‘coustic guitars, special mic, and Guy Clark songbook.  As they were concluding sound check, I reminded Verlon that he had sung “Abilene” in Abilene.  And the boys broke into a good natured, abbreviated version with encouragement from you-know-who (see attachment taken by a sneaky Ken).

The doors opened at 6 o’clock with concert starting at 7:00.  Beer and wine was free; bottled water would cost you a buck.  We got to reconnect with our pal Tamara Saviano, who had pre-signed copies of Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark with proceeds from sales going to ACHS.  In checking tickets, I also met Tamara’s father, a Bostonian with accent to match.  Mr. Saviano is, quite naturally, very proud of his daughter’s accomplishments, as are we. Everyone is awaiting the Guy documentary which will premiere at SXSW.

The Clark sisters were present.  Briefly said hello to Caro; had more time to chat with Jan.  I also met John Jackson, Mary Lucille’s younger brother.  John introduced me to Mary Martha Shivers, who is in the classic 1956 photo of the 9th grade class officers (Guy was treasurer) taken in front of the Malt Shop.  And the buzz in the air in La Palma Event Center was festive, much like a class reunion.

Dr. Murrah handled the introductions and recognitions.  Then it was time for Mr. Thompson and Mr. Camp to work their magic.  Kicking things off with “Texas 1947.”  Exchanging verses, harmonizing sublimely, fire on the strings.  We know, of course, that Verlon is a flattop box master, but Shawn more than held his own.  The stories flowed, too, with Verlon sharing most of ‘em.  The fact that Mr. Thompson is an Okie and Mr. Camp an Arkie also made for humorous exchanges.

Just before the break, Shawn left the stage apparently not feeling well.  At the start of second set, Tamara offered comments on writing the biography and thanking the Rockport folks again for all their assistance.  When the boys returned, Mr. Camp explained that he had thrown-up, perhaps suffering from food poisoning … fried red snapper.  A perfect segue into “Texas Cooking.”  And the boys were off again.  Throughout the evening lots of favorites: “Desperadoes,” “LA Freeway,” “Randall Knife,” “Dublin Blues,” etc.  And because we were in Rockport, several of Guy’s south coast/gulf songs: ”Boats to Build” et al.  Verlon even pulled out “Eaman” (a Clark co-write with Rodney Crowell): “Sing fare the well/Calm seas or swell/Red evening sky/Home and dry.”

 And, yes, the boys did include “Let Him Roll” on the play list.  And Shawn did sing three of the Sis Draper songs (“Sis Draper,” “Magnolia Wind,” “The Death of Sis Draper.”  Furthermore, Shawn and Verlon are talking about recording an album of Sis songs, as Guy and Shawn wrote several more, including “The Ghost of Sis Draper.”

Well, you get the idea.  The evening was everything we could have hoped for: a time for reflection, laughter, some tears … a fitting tribute to ol’ Guy Clark.  Towards the end, Mr. Thompson sang his own tribute of sorts, “Sideman’s Dream,” and his testimony was a poignant reminder of his twenty-plus years on the road with Guy.  Then the boys jumped right into a riotous “Home Grown Tomatoes.”  Closing things out with “Old Friends” (written by Guy, Susanna, Richard “Don Ricardo” Dobson). Here Verlon enlisted the audience to join in on the chorus and the room was filled with voices:

Old friends they shine like diamonds

Old friends you can always call

Old friends lord you can’t buy ‘em

You know it’s old friends after all.