This must be the place – by Greg Cahill
Marin is a good place to be for Texas rocker Danny Click
Call it the good house-rockin’ seal of approval. Danny Click, a tall and lanky Indiana-born axeslinger who honed his chops on the beer-soaked stages of Austin, has been plying his Texas roadhouse blues locally since moving to San Rafael just under a decade ago.
His SRO shows at the Sleeping Lady in Fairfax have had fans lining up on the sidewalk. One of those fans is Carlos Santana, who recently showed up to jam with Click. The Marin rocker, who is married to Cindy Blackman, sister of Click’s backup singer Tracy Blackman, had taken a shine to Click’s recent self-produced album Life Is a Good Place, a strikingly strong set of country songs reminiscent of the late, great Chris Whitley.
“He had listened to the album and showed up unannounced,” Click says. “The place was so packed Santana had to wait outside for a while till someone could find him a chair. ”Immediately, I started to get a little nervous, because he is one of my heroes, and he was sitting there watching me play. I figured, you can’t not invite Carlos Santana to play. ”He hadn’t brought a guitar so he played one of mine through our keyboardist’s amp. It was very impromptu. You can see on the video [that someone posted on YouTube that he had a great time. It was a total thrill. ”At the end, I had to blush because he came back and said something really complimentary to me. I was humbled. I mean, this guy is a legend and one of my heroes and here he is telling me what a great guitar player I am–it was awesome. ”It felt really good. Life is, indeed, a good place for Click these days. His album has been charting well on country and Americana radio.
His decision to self-produce the album was something of a leap of faith. Before starting the project, he’d had a deal with Warner Bros. that fell through at the last minute. So Click took a hiatus from performing to concentrate on writing and producing, even selling off a few prized guitars from a collection that still numbers more than three dozen. He’s rightly proud of the results. ”I’m getting a little older now,” says the 50-year-old musician. “I figured that I’m not going to cut corners. The record labels don’t give a damn anymore, so I decided I would just do it my way and spend the money. I scrimped and saved. ”I decided I would do it the way a record label would do it. There’s a big difference in quality when you do that. After all, it’s so easy to record these days that there’s a lot of stuff out. Hopefully, folks will be able to find the nuggets and this will be one of those nuggets they find.”
His singer/songwriter side has stepped into the spotlight, but the education he received watching his mother play lap-steel slide guitar with the butt of a butter knife and taking advantage of any chance to get on stage in one those fabled Texas roadhouses has continued to serve him well. ”I like that music because no one really does it anymore and I grew up listening to it and playing it when I was a kid. So I just gravitated toward that sound. The thing I love about it the most is that it’s so raw,” he says, drawing out his vowels (he pronounces it raaaaw).
“It’s so in your face, so real, so in the moment. I mean, in those clubs, these guys are playing their ass off right in front of you, two feet away. There’s no pretension, no room for error–if they make a mistake, it’s a loud and proud mistake. ”I equate it to one of those down-home, old-timey Southern Baptist revival meetings where they’re having a rip-roarin’ ceremony. It’s the same kind of vibe–it’s real and it’s honest and it’s passionate. It’s like the people are doing it like it’s the last time they’ll ever be doing it. ”That’s what I learned in Austin: If you’re playing like it’s the last time you’ll ever play the guitar, then you’re doing it right. If you’re not doing it that way, it’s because you’re not living it.
“That’s what I like about it–I play it because it’s real and raaaaw!”
Get real with Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COMING SOON Danny Click & the Americana Orchestra perform two sets—one acoustic, the other featuring “paint-peeling” roadhouse blues.
Friday, Oct. 28, 2011 @ 8pm, at 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley. $18-$25. 415/383-9600.