Bill Clifton, Red Rector & Art Stamper
Live in Holland 1987
In Bill Clifton’s recording and performing career that spans seven decades, one would think that there would be one golden era – and there is. That remarkable period covers the years from his first recording in 1952 to the present day.
Fortunately, Pieter Groenveld recorded performances in concert as Bill Clifton, Red Rector, and Art Stamper were touring Europe, in 1987. Each is an authentic and genuine first-generation artist who has contributed creativity and artistry to Bluegrass and Country Music and helped define the styles. The chemistry and respect among the three are obvious with each lending his own personality and character to the music!
Red Rector came from the mountains of North Carolina and spent the early part of his career playing with artists including Charlie Monroe, Don Reno, Johnny and Jack, and many years in East Tennessee with Fred Smith. I grew up seeing them as Red and Fred on television from Knoxville, Tennessee. A consummate entertainer, he is well known for his florid and exciting mandolin playing. His voice and Bill’s blend particularly well.
Art Stamper is from a musical family in my hometown of Hindman, Kentucky. His father, Hiram Stamper, was a well-known, old-time fiddler. Art first achieved notoriety performing or recording with musicians including the Stanley Brothers, Jim & Jesse, George Jones, and Emmylou Harris. Art toured and recorded extensively with Bill Clifton.
Bill’s humble, gentle manner belies his powerful influence. He had close personal friendships with Woody Guthrie and A.P. Carter, who he observes, was a “song seeker.” Bill says his role is that of a “song carrier.” He certainly has filled that role, introducing material that now is incorporated in the standard body of bluegrass songs that “everyone knows.”
When asked recently, how he felt about being inducted to the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame, he replied that he felt honored, and appreciated the beautiful validation, but that personal recognition is not the reason that he sings. He sings because he loves these songs and wants to share them. He feels that while some people only recognize success in monetary terms, success can be in what you give. And Bill Clifton gives us the great gift of inspiration through his music! Let’s all continue singing his songs.
Raymond W. McLain
January 14, 2023