Delaney & Bonnie Meet Eric Clapton

Out of the south they came, ready to seduce the rock star elite with their earthy gospel-soul-blues...

Delaney & Bonnie Meet Eric Clapton

DELANEY BRAMLETT once ruminated on the songs he and his wife Bonnie had written during the late 1960s: “The kind of music we’re doing ain’t Nashville and it ain’t Memphis. I think it’s a country sort of gospel that folks’ve been doing for a long time.” Delaney & Bonnie’s <em>Home</em>: rock stars sat up and listened.

That divide, between the gentrified hillbilly sounds of Music City USA and the gospel-blues hollers of Tennessee’s southern counties had been narrowed by the likes of Ray Charles, Charley Pride and Stax Records’ amalgamation of white and black players. Delaney and Bonnie’s hippie collective of session hotshots took things a step further. Home, their first album of sanctified, country-soul grooves, boasted a roster of extraordinary musicians, many of whom had been responsible for solidifying the southern sound of the late ’60s. The Memphis Horns, Booker T & The MG’s and Leon Russell all lend a hand – even William Bell steps in to provide backing vocals on the prairie-funk of Isaac Hayes and David Porter’s My Baby Specializes.

“The kind of music we’re doing ain’t Nashville and it ain’t Memphis.”

Delaney Bramlett

Not that the central duo couldn’t hold their own. Before joining forces in 1967, D & B had cut their teeth with some of the very best – Delaney honing his guitar skills with the house band of TV show Shindig! and Bonnie providing vocal support for Count Basie, Albert King and Ike & Tina – and that assurance is all over Home. Soon the pair’s rootsy strain of soul-stirring R&B would intoxicate some of rock’s biggest stars, most strikingly Eric Clapton (see below) and George Harrison, who both soaked their first major solo offerings in churchy sounds learned from Delaney & Bonnie. But upon its release, Home was derided in some circles as being a mere pastiche – white folks playing at being black. But since when has that been an obstacle to greatness? (The Rolling Stones, anyone?) And when the music is this exuberant, who cares?

For more evidence, check out this clip of the pair with Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock and Dave Mason grooving through Robert Johnson tribute, Poor Elijah, on the BBC’s Price Of Fame show in 1969: