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Delbert McClinton stays on cruise control

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2011

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These days it seems like nearly every musician on Earth hosts some kind of cruise, taking their fans on the high seas for a concentrated experience. But Delbert McClinton helped to start that particular industry.

The roots rockin' Texas native spent two years on the annual Blues Cruise before deciding "I could do it better" and launching his own Sandy Beaches Cruise, which sets sail for an 18th time out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Jan. 11.

"Looking back on it now, I don't know how in the world that I convinced myself I could pull this off, because it was a big deal," recalls McClinton, 71. "The cost in the beginning was three-quarters of a million dollars, so I had an awful lot of faith I could pull this off. And we had to eat it a couple of times.

"But after about four years it started paying for itself, and in the fifth year it started paying some back, and now it's just got a life of its own. It's a big thrill for me to see it happen ever year and watch people discover new music."

McClinton, meanwhile, is working on some new music of his own these days. After guesting on singer-songwriter Eric Lindell's latest album, McClinton has hooked up again with fellow Texan Glen Clark, who he recorded with during the early 70s. The two have started work on a new album, while McClinton also has some material together for a follow-up to 2009's "Acquired Taste," his fourth consecutive album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Blues chart.

"The last 10 years have put me in a position that I can pretty much do anything I want to, within reason, and that's a good place to be," McClinton says. "Those records brought in some good paydays. There is a wonderful life of being a near-star, if you know how to do it.

"You've got to be a survivor, and I'm a survivor. If I'm not into doing something, I'm not gonna do it well. It can drive you nuts sometimes, but it's always about striving for something better rather than just getting it done.. I've been driven by that for as long as I can remember, so I don't think it's gonna change any time soon."

Delbert McClinton performs at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, at the Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are sold out. Call 734-761-1451 or visit www.theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

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