Clarence White was a genuine double threat. His brilliant, Doc Watson-inspired acoustic flatpicking, which incorporated lightning-fast fiddle lines played on an ancient Martin D-28, helped the bluegrass world recognize the guitar as a lead instrument.
Several masters of the genre, including Tony Rice and Norman Blake, name him as a key influence.
As an electric guitarist, White literally built the bridge between country and rock in the late ’60s. His work with the Parsons/White StringBender – an ingenious B-string-pulling device invented and installed in White’s 1954 Fender Telecaster by multi-instrumentalist Gene Parsons – is simply mind blowing.
Whether employing a crisp, bell-like tone (The Byrds’ “Tulsa County”) or a touch of fuzz (The Flying Burrito Brothers’ “The Train Song”), White inserted his dancing, whimsical runs into songs with confidence, knowing that a little can often go a long way.
My Clarence White Playlist
“Lover of the Bayou” (The Byrds, Untitled, 1970)
Despite being down to one original member (Roger McGuinn), the late-period Byrds remained a steady concert draw, largely because word had spread about White’s playing. This song — with its manic, fuzz-infused B-bender solo – was recorded live at Queens College in New York in February 1970.
For the rest of this story, plus the other four songs in this Clarence White playlist (and a cool Byrds video!), check out the full story at GuitarAficionado.com.