"Bill Clark's blend of down-home-humor, exceptional musical talent, and inspiration allowed us to experience a great time of fun, joy, and laughter."
Oliver Martin - Senior Adult Director, Pensacola, FL
Pictured with Bill are grands Jake Smith and Gracie Gardner. Lane Smith was born a just few weeks later.
Old standard vocals! Candy-to-the-ear piano!
Bill Clark was born in Laurel, Mississippi. He took his first piano lesson in the third grade and didn't like it one bit! Bill told his father ...
"Thanks, but no thanks! My piano playing days are over!"
His father, J. Kimble Clark, (having other ideas and a mindset that a little pain would greatly reinforce the long-term recall of mere words) twisted Bill's ear around so many times, he had an epiphany which led to an amazingly rapid conclusion that ... piano was just-the-thing-for-him!
Though many "y-ears" of lessons and untold hours of practice followed that twisted episode,
Bill essentially learned to play the piano that day ... by ear! Thank you for your foresight,
Early on, Bill's terrific piano teacher, Mr. Clyde Howell, introduced him to classic old-standards from the big band era, movies, and Broadway. Misty, Stardust, Three Coins in a Fountain, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and Blue Moon became a part of his repertoire as early as junior high. He developed a lifetime affection for the genre and, in time, created a style all-his-own.
He loves the old hymns and gospel music as well - having been equally influenced by The Four Freshmen and Ames Brothers as by gospel groups like The Blackwood Brothers and Statesmen. The same holds true for Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and gospel music's James Blackwood and Jake Hess. On piano it was the glitzy Liberace and gospel's flashy Jackie Marshall that enthralled him.
J. B. Coats, who conducted singing schools and wrote the famous gospel song, "Where Could I Go But To The Lord," was influential. One of the high-honors of Bill's life was to play for J. B. Coats' funeral at the age of 19. In 2011, Bill fulfilled a dream and organized J. B.Coats Day, a day that honored the life, legacy and memory of Mr. Coats ... 50-years after his death.
Metropolitian Opera great Leontyne Price (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leontyne_Price) and Internationally acclaimed jazz guitarist Mundell Lowe (www.mundelllowe.com) are both products of Jones County, Mississippi. In 2010, Bill produced Mundell Comes Home, a special day in Laurel to honor the lifetime achievements of this extraordinarily talented man. Mundell appeared in concert along with Lloyd Wells, another notable talent hailing from Jones County. www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lloyd_Wells. Surely there's something special in that Free State of Jones water! WOW!
In high school and college, Bill sang with his sister, Martha Clark Carr, and sisters, Patsy Jones Stringer and Sandra Jones Baucom, in The Cee Jay's. They won sweepstakes in 1962 at the Mid-South Fair Youth Talent Contest in Memphis, and appeared on The Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour in New York long before there was an American Idol. www.theceejays.com.
As a teenager, Bill accompained friends Milfred Valentine (Dr. Valentine and long-time director of The Mississippi Singing Churchmen), Howell Hathorne, Bill Collins, and Tom Shows in a gospel group - TheTravelaire's. They had a live radio show on Sunday mornings and still get together occasionally for special events.
While Bill's singing and playing was influenced by a number of vocalist and pianist, nobody deserves more credit than his childhood teacher, Mr. Howell. By the age of 12 Bill was playing some in the small country church where he grew up. His father was "song director" so he got ample opportunity to play. In those days they called it favoritism. Today it's called nepotism.
Whatever else you call it ... your folks will call it "fun" when you have Bill Clark onboard for your next special "fun-ction."
Contact Bill today!
Recognization and thanks go to friends: Bob Saxton and Don Legg, and to the late Tom Larrimore, Wilmer Holifield, Edsel Coats (son of J. B), and Nelda Holifield.