A Conversation with Vassar Clements (continued)
Puremusic: Hi, Vassar. Frank Goodman here.
Vassar Clements: Frank, how you doin'?
PM: Oh, fine. What kind of a day are you having?
VC: I don't know. I haven't been up that long.
VC: I'll let you know if you'll call me tonight.
PM: Are you a night creature?
VC: Yeah. Well, for years I've had my days and nights mixed up. I've tried to change it. I've tried to go to bed at 10:30 or 11:00, but it doesn't do any good. I just lay there looking at the four walls in the dark, and I can't see a thing.
PM: Is this the life of a musician, or are you a night owl from birth?
VC: No, it's just from playing music all my life.
VC: And I used to never go to bed. I'd always stay and jam. Sometimes it would be daylight before I went to bed. And over the years, I just got turned around. My daughter says, "Well, you got to get up. You got to go to bed." But I try it and it don't work. I get up and I'm still sleeping.
PM: I started counting back today and said, "Jeez, you've been listening to Vassar Clements for thirty-five years, man."
VC: Ain't that something? When I think of how long I've been playing, I think, "Golly bum, I'm getting old."
VC: I look around and I say, "How many of us are left?" I can almost count them on one hand, seems like.
PM: And yet you look so good.
VC: Well, the good Lord is taking care of me some way or other, and for some reason.
PM: I'm sure it comes from your spirit.
VC: Well, that's one thing, because if you've got good people around you all the time and good players, you just go with the flow.
PM: And you still have that same remarkable countenance and profile that always made me think, "Damn, that guy should be on Mount Rushmore or something!"
VC: Oh, I never heard that before. I'm going to have to put that in writing.
PM: You've got the killer profile. Has anybody ever sculpted your head? Is there a bust of you around?
VC: [laughs] No, I don't think so.
PM: Well, we got to get that done, Vassar.
VC: How do we get it done? I don't know anybody.
PM: I tell ya, I'm going to look into it.
VC: All right.
PM: I've got some sculptor friends. "Come on, somebody get out there and do Vassar Clements."
VC: I'll tell you, I'm ready, and it would be an honor for me.
PM: Okay. I'll make a note, I'm going to get that done. It's my personal project.
VC: Oh, me.
PM: So, speaking of projects, how did this last one, Livin' With The Blues, come about?
VC: It came about over a year ago--maybe a couple years ago, time passes so fast--I mentioned to David [Grisman] that we needed to do another CD. I wanted to follow up on Old & In The Gray. And we just kept on talking about it. Once I said, "As much blues as I've always played, and it goes into everything I've played, I never have done a blues album." He said, "You want to do one?" I said, "I'd think I'd like that, because I never have done it." And all you got to do is tell David one time, and he'll stay after you and remind you. That's one good thing about him, if you ask for something, if he's got it in his head, he'll keep on it. So we did it, which I'm glad of. But if it hadn't been for David I probably wouldn't have done it.
PM: He's a remarkable guy. [see our interview with David]
VC: He is great. Yeah, he is very remarkable.
PM: As you say, there was always a lot of blue-ness in the country playing that you did, in the bluegrass playing that you did, in the jazz playing that you did. Blues was always an important element.
VC: It was always there. I would notice it, and I had people tell me that no matter what I played, it seemed like the blues thing would come out.
PM: The guys who can put the blue in bluegrass really stick out beautifully--that's what Clarence White was really great at, he would play really blue-grass when he picked flat top guitar.
VC: That's what I heard. I've heard some of his playing, but I missed him some way or other. I should have met him, but I don't think I did before he got killed.
PM: You guys never crossed paths? Wow, isn't that something... continue