“It chose me,” Clay Kirkland said. “I liked the sound, and God must have decided the harmonica needed someone who could do something with it.”
This is how Clay described his deep connection with the harmonica in a 1992 Swallow Hill Music Teacher Feature. His life already belonged to music, but until he received his first harmonica as a Christmas gift while still a college student, no other instrument really “took.”
Once the diminutive blues harp found its way into Clay’s hands, everything seemed predestined. Clay and his harmonica have jammed with the likes of Chuck Berry, Willie Nelson, the Flobots, and countless others.
Clay’s other calling was to teach. He first taught at Swallow Hill in 1980, albeit briefly. He rejoined us in 1991 and became a mainstay.
“Learn to be your own favorite musician,” Clay said in a 2013 interview. “Don’t be so judgmental… learn to have fun listening to yourself play.”
Swallow Hill is proud to present The Kirkland Brothers – that’s Clay and his Kansas City-based brother Gary – in Tuft Theatre on Friday, October 26, 2018 at 8pm.
This concert will be unlike any other, too, as Clay plans to move to Missouri soon after. He will be back, no doubt, and he’ll always have a home at Swallow Hill.
A November, 1992 Swallow Hill Teacher Feature of Clay Kirkland.