Blowin' Like Hell: The William Clarke Story

Blowin' Like Hell: The William Clarke Story (Softcover Book) By Paul Barry. Free USA Shipping.

Paul Barry

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The incredible true story, told for the first time.

“William Clarke should be remembered as one of the great blues players. In my mind,
there is no doubt about it. … He understood the feeling, and the spirit and he lived it.”

– Charlie Musselwhite, blues harmonica legend

The biography of harmonica legend William Clarke is told in the new book BLOWIN' LIKE HELL: THE WILLIAM CLARKE STORY by Paul Barry.

From the ghetto clubs of South Central L.A. to international fame, William Clarke became known as one of the most innovative blues harmonica players of the 1980s and 1990s.


Clarke battled through a tough childhood to find family among a cast of blues characters, including Smokey Wilson, Shakey Jake Harris, and George “Harmonica” Smith. As he built a family of his own, he put immense pressure on himself and his band members, pushing them to unimaginable heights – fueled in part by Clarke’s own powerful alcohol addiction.

 141 pages.

Readers will be captivated by this larger-than-life star’s humble origins, family-first attitude, and life-or-death battle against addiction. BLOWIN' LIKE HELL will take readers to Clarke’s final moments, and beyond.

BLOWIN' LIKE HELL is told by those who were there with William Clarke, including new interviews with harmonica giant Charlie Musselwhite, Alligator Records founder Bruce Iglauer, musicians that toured and recorded with him and Clarke’s own family members.

Author Paul Barry discusses his 13-year friendship with William Clarke and his motivation to write Clarke’s life story:


“I met William (Bill) Clarke in 1983 in St. Paul, Minnesota when he was on tour with George ‘Harmonica’ Smith, and my band opened for them. Bill and I became fast friends, and I ended up studying harmonica and living with him and his family in L.A. in 1985. We remained close friends throughout his lifetime.  I am deeply honored to have written this book on this great musician, friend, and family man.”

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Rob Sawyer
Clarke's story wonderfully told

Got my copy as a Christmas gift, and literally could not put it down! Paul Barry, who I'd heard talk abut Clarke in interviews, was a longtime friend of Clarke. Relying not only on his own experiences, but also on wonderful interviews with musicians who knew and/or worked with Clarke, his friendship with Clarke's widow and other family members, and a lot of excellent research, Barry has done a wonderful job of bringing the reader into the heart of Clarke's all-too-short life. And Barry doesn't try to sugar-coat the various problems, many self-inflicted, that led to Clarke's death when he was at the height of his musical abilities. But at the same time, Clarke as a wonderful person comes through. Even readers who aren't particularly interested in blues music, or blues harmonica, will find "Blowin' Like Hell" a compelling read.