Whitlock at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, New York City, in September 2015
|Birth name||Robert Stanley Whitlock|
March 18, 1948 |
Memphis, Tennessee, United States
|Genres||Rock, soul, gospel, blues|
|Instruments||Vocals, keyboards, guitar|
|Labels||Stax, Elektra, Atco, ABC-Dunhill, Capricorn, Swan Song, Grapevine, Domino|
|Associated acts||Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, Derek and the Dominos, Eric Clapton|
Robert Stanley "Bobby" Whitlock (born March 18, 1948 in Memphis, Tennessee) is an American singer, songwriter and musician. He is best known for being a member of blues-rock band Derek and the Dominos with Eric Clapton in 1970–71. Whitlock's musical career began with Memphis soul acts such as Sam & Dave and Booker T. & the MG's before he joined Delaney & Bonnie and Friends in 1968. His association with Delaney & Bonnie bandmate Clapton led to Whitlock participating in sessions for George Harrison's All Things Must Pass triple album (1970), in London, and the formation of Derek and the Dominos that year. On the band's sole studio album, the critically acclaimed Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970), Whitlock wrote or co-wrote six of the album's fourteen tracks, including "Tell the Truth", "Anyday" and "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?"
Whitlock recorded four solo albums during the 1970s, among them Bobby Whitlock and Raw Velvet (both 1972), and contributed to albums by Clapton, John Lennon, Dr John and the Rolling Stones. He then retired from music until releasing It's About Time in 1999. Following his return, Whitlock has recorded and performed with wife CoCo Carmel and, since 2006, with other musicians based in Austin, Texas. Among his and Carmel's projects, the well-received Other Assorted Love Songs, Live from Whitney Chapel (2003) contains acoustic interpretations of songs originally recorded by Derek and the Dominos.
Early career 1965–68
In an article for Mojo magazine in May 2011, music journalist Phil Sutcliffe described Bobby Whitlock as "born in Memphis, learned Hammond organ peering over Booker T's shoulder at Stax studios". While still a teenager, Whitlock befriended acts associated with Stax Records, including Albert King, Sam & Dave, the Staples Singers and Booker T. & the MG's, and was the first white artist signed to the label. His first contribution to a recording was in 1967, when he supplied handclaps on Sam & Dave's single "I Thank You".
Between 1965 and 1968, Whitlock performed regularly in the Memphis area, playing organ with local soul band the Short Cuts before forming the Counts. In his 2010 autobiography, Whitlock writes of this period in Memphis: "It was a great time and town for music then, especially soul music. It was real rhythm and blues. Albert King R&B, that's what I'm talking about. It was loose and all about music everywhere that you turned." With established Stax musicians such as Steve Cropper as his mentor, and Donald "Duck" Dunn and Don Nix preparing to produce a pop album by him on a Stax subsidiary label, Whitlock instead left Memphis after meeting husband-and-wife team Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett. Whitlock recalls that he was performing at a club with the Counts when the Bramletts invited him to join a soul-revue band they were forming in Los Angeles.
Delaney & Bonnie 1968–70
Whitlock contributed on keyboards and vocals to two Delaney & Bonnie albums in 1969, Home and Accept No Substitute. Their touring band, known as Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, included musicians he would continue to work with on projects through to the early 1970s: bassist Carl Radle; drummers Jim Keltner and Jim Gordon; and a horn section comprising Bobby Keys and Jim Price. Another member was Eric Clapton, who joined the Friends line-up as lead guitarist midway through a US tour in July–August 1969. On this tour, Delaney & Bonnie were supporting Clapton's short-lived supergroup with Steve Winwood, Blind Faith. Clapton later described Whitlock as "without doubt the most energetic sideman I had ever seen". Along with all the other members of Delaney & Bonnie, Whitlock flew to England in November 1969 to prepare for a much-publicized European tour, financed by Clapton.
In his autobiography, Whitlock states that their arrival in London changed the dynamics within the band, as the Bramletts now considered themselves "big stars" and the ones solely responsible for the new-found success. Once in London, Whitlock participated in a session for US soul singer Doris Troy's solo album on the Beatles' Apple record label. The album, Doris Troy (1970), was co-produced by George Harrison, who, having championed Delaney & Bonnie in the British press, accepted Clapton's invitation to join the tour. Through Harrison, Whitlock and the band then played at John Lennon's "Peace for Christmas" concert, held at the Lyceum Ballroom in London on December 15, 1969.[nb 1]
In early 1970, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends backed Clapton on his debut solo album, Eric Clapton, and toured America with the English guitarist. Arguments over money with the Bramletts then led to the other Friends quitting the band and joining Leon Russell on Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. Whitlock continued to work with Delaney & Bonnie until April, following sessions for their To Bonnie from Delaney album (1970).[nb 2] On Cropper's advice, he then returned to England to stay with Clapton at his Surrey home, Hurtwood Edge.
Derek and the Dominos 1970–71
Seeking to start a new band, Whitlock and Clapton reunited with Radle and Gordon at a session for P.P. Arnold, before going on to back Harrison on his 1970 triple album All Things Must Pass. Whitlock has described the latter sessions as "spectacular in every way". Although individual contributions remain hard to ascertain, due to the large cast of musicians on the Phil Spector-produced recording, Harrison biographer Simon Leng identifies Whitlock as one of two "core keyboard players" on All Things Must Pass. Having traditionally favored Hammond organ as his keyboard instrument, Whitlock played piano for the first time on a studio recording during the session for Harrison's "Beware of Darkness".[nb 3]
In June 1970, early in the All Things Must Pass sessions, Clapton, Whitlock, Radle and Gordon formed the blues-rock band Derek and the Dominos. Their first release was a US-only single, "Tell the Truth", produced by Spector and written primarily by Whitlock. In August, once their work on Harrison's album was complete, Derek and the Dominos toured the UK, playing to small venues. That summer, Whitlock and his bandmates also participated in London sessions for Dr John's album The Sun, Moon & Herbs (1971).
Unhappy with Spector's treatment of their sound, the band went to Criteria Studios in Miami to work with producer Tom Dowd, on what became a double album – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970). As well as a remake of "Tell the Truth", the album included five other songs written or co-written by Whitlock, including "Anyday", "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?", "Keep on Growing" and "Thorn Tree in the Garden". In addition, Whitlock helped Clapton finish "Bell Bottom Blues", although he was not credited as a co-writer on that song. "Keep on Growing" and "Thorn Tree in the Garden" featured Whitlock on lead vocals, while on other tracks he and Clapton shared the singing in a style reminiscent of Sam & Dave.
Adding to the power of the Dominos' music, Clapton's inspiration for the songs on Layla was his unrequited love for Pattie Boyd, Harrison's wife. Whitlock began a relationship with Boyd's sister Paula at this time, and was therefore, as he has described it, "in the inner circle ... in the middle of it with all of them". He comments on a musical dialogue between Harrison and Clapton in their songs: "There were subliminal messages, going back and forth, between two good friends as a way of healing and setting each other free ... I have always known that the better part of those songs [on All Things Must Pass] were directed to Eric, just like Eric's were to George on the Layla record."
Between October and December 1970, Derek and the Dominos toured the United States in support of Layla, but the album made little commercial impact on release, failing to chart in the UK. Clapton's despondency at being rejected by Boyd, the band's drug consumption, and personal conflicts between the members, particularly with Gordon, all contributed to the break-up of the Dominos in May 1971.
Solo career 1971–76
Whitlock recorded his debut solo album, Bobby Whitlock (1972), at London's Olympic Studios in 1971, with Andy Johns as his co-producer. The recording took place before the abortive sessions for the Dominos' second studio album; a press release for the 2013 reissue of Bobby Whitlock gives the recording date as starting in March 1971, while Dominos biographer Jan Reid writes of sessions happening in January that year. Whitlock played acoustic or electric rhythm guitar on much of the album, which also included musical contributions from all the Dominos (often recorded separately), the Bramletts, Harrison, Keys, Price and Keltner. Among its tracks, "Where There's a Will" was a Whitlock–Bonnie Bramlett collaboration that had featured in Delaney & Bonnie's live shows in 1969–70, and "A Day Without Jesus" was co-written by Whitlock and Don Nix. The record peaked at number 140 on the US Billboard 200 chart, the same magazine praising it as "a persuasively powerful first album".
Whitlock's second solo album, also on ABC-Dunhill Records, was Raw Velvet, released in November 1972. It included appearances by Clapton and Gordon, on "Hello L.A., Bye Bye Birmingham", although the majority of the album, including another remake of "Tell the Truth", featured new associates such as guitarist Rick Vito and ex-Van der Graaf Generator bassist Keith Ellis. The album was co-produced by Jimmy Miller, whose connection with the Rolling Stones led to Whitlock making an uncredited contribution to the band's Exile on Main St. double album (1972). By this point, Layla 's title track had become a hit song, following its release as a single to promote the History of Eric Clapton compilation (1972), leading to a critical reappraisal of Derek and the Dominos and belated commercial success. A 1970-recorded live album, In Concert, was similarly well-received when issued in January 1973. Raw Velvet peaked at number 190 on the Billboard 200, however, and it was Whitlock's last album to place on the chart. Whitlock tried in vain to get Clapton to come out and play; realizing it was not going to happen, after two years of waiting, he went back to the United States.
His next solo album was One of a Kind, co-produced with Bill Halverson and released in 1975 on Capricorn Records. Rock Your Sox Off followed in 1976, opening with a new recording of "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?" Whitlock then withdrew from the music industry; he told Mojo contributor Harry Shapiro in 2001: "I had my own problems to deal with." Speaking to The Austin Chronicle in 2006, Whitlock said of his retirement, "It wasn't hard to stop, because there was nothing going on in music", and rued the popularity of disco.
For much of the 1980s and 1990s, Whitlock lived on a farm in Mississippi, raising his children and doing occasional session work. He had his own television show with Steve Cropper. A rare music release during this period was "Put Angels Around You", a duet with Scottish singer Maggie Bell, issued as a single in 1983 on the Swan Song label.
In 1999, Whitlock resumed his solo career with It's About Time, which included contributions from Cropper and saxophonist Jim Horn. Michael Smith of AllMusic described the album as "one of Whitlock's most intriguing creations yet" and a "fine set from a musician we haven't heard enough from in recent years". In April 2000, Whitlock reunited with Clapton to play live on the BBC's Later... with Jools Holland. The following year, he contributed piano to Sweet Tea by blues guitarist Buddy Guy.
In 2003, Whitlock and his wife, musician CoCo Carmel, collaborated on Other Assorted Love Songs, a live album that again revisited the Dominos' songs, as well as including a cover of Harrison's "All Things Must Pass". Music critic Bruce Eder praised the album, writing: "The classic pieces [from Layla] hold up magnificently ... [H]ere, acoustic guitar and piano are more than sufficient accompaniment and, indeed, coupled with Whitlock's powerful singing and range, make a strong case for these being the definitive versions."
Whitlock and Carmel moved to Austin, Texas in 2006. The couple worked with musicians such as David Grissom, Stephen Bruton and Brannen Temple, and special guest Willie Nelson, on the album Lovers (2008) and Metamorphosis (2010), another live recording. Released on the Domino label, Lovers included a song that Whitlock had begun writing with Clapton in the early 1970s, "Dear Veronica", and a remake of "Layla" that omitted the Gordon-composed piano ending, which Whitlock had never thought suitable for the track. Vintage (2009) compiled his unreleased songs from the 1990s and included appearances by Cropper and Horn. Whitlock's solo album My Time (2009) featured musical contributions from Cropper, Keltner, Horn, Tim Drummond and Buddy Miller. His subsequent releases with Carmel include Esoteric (2012) and another live album, Carnival: Live in Austin (2013). In 2013, in connection with the release of the latter album, Whitlock and Carmel gave an interview for Tracy Thibodeaux's Pods o' Pop in which he spoke in depth about the formation of Derek and the Dominos, composing with Clapton, and playing on Harrison's All Things Must Pass.
In 2010, Bobby Whitlock: A Rock 'n' Roll Autobiography, written with music historian Marc Roberty, was published, with a foreword by Eric Clapton. Whitlock's first two solo albums appeared, remastered, as Where There's a Will, There's a Way: The ABC-Dunhill Recordings, released by Future Day Records in September 2013. In 2015, Bobby Whitlock and Coco Carmel's "The Just Us Tour 2015" visited the eastern and mid-western United States, using guest guitarists in each city. The tour will end with a performance at The Jass Blues Festival in Dhaka, Bangladesh. 
Other notable recordings
- Delaney & Bonnie and Friends' performance with Lennon and others, dubbed "the Plastic Ono Supergroup", was included on the Live Jam disc of Lennon and Yoko Ono's Some Time in New York City double album in 1972.
- Whitlock appears on Delaney & Bonnie's 1971 studio album, Motel Shot, through the inclusion of songs like "Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad" that were recorded before his departure.
- In his autobiography, Whitlock writes that, aside from keyboards, he also played tubular bells on the album and arranged Keys and Price's horn parts. Leng also credits Whitlock and Clapton as backing vocalists on songs such as the title track and "Let It Down".
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- Whitlock, pp. 28–29.
- Rob Caldwell, "Bobby Whitlock: Biography", AllMusic (retrieved September 29, 2013).
- Evans, Rush (April 19, 2011). "Layla turns 40". Goldmine. Retrieved August 4, 2015.
- Whitlock, pp. 27, 31, 34.
- Whitlock, p. 27.
- Harris, p. 70.
- Whitlock, pp. 34–35.
- Caligiuri, Jim (December 1, 2006). "Keep on Growing: Playing Dominos with Bobby Whitlock". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
- Whitlock, p. 35.
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- Whitlock, pp. 42, 48–49.
- Graff & Durchholz, p. 327.
- O'Dell, pp. 111, 167.
- The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, p. 183.
- The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, pp. 183, 254.
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- Eric Clapton's foreword, Whitlock, p. 1.
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- "Doris Troy", Apple Records (retrieved September 27, 2013).
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- Leng, p. 67.
- Blaney, p. 41.
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- Whitlock, p. 60.
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- Leng, p. 82fn.
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- Leng, p. 92fn.
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- Whitlock, pp. 75, 81.
- Leng, pp. 90, 96.
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- Schumacher, p. 143.
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- Clapton, pp. 135–36.
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- Whitlock, pp. 237–38.
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- "Bobby Whitlock Bobby Whitlock" > Track listing, AllMusic (retrieved September 29, 2013).
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- Album Reviews, Billboard, March 18, 1972, p. 46 (retrieved September 27, 2013).
- Patrice Eyries, Mike Callahan & David Edwards, "Dunhill Album Discography", bsnpubs.com (retrieved September 29, 2013).
- Whitlock, p. 238.
- William Ruhlmann, "Derek and the Dominos: Biography", AllMusic (retrieved September 27, 2013).
- William Ruhlmann, "Eric Clapton The History of Eric Clapton", AllMusic (retrieved September 28, 2013).
- Album credits: Bobby Whitlock, One of a Kind (Capricorn Records, 1975).
- Rob Caldwell, "Bobby Whitlock One of a Kind", AllMusic (retrieved September 29, 2013).
- Rob Caldwell, "Bobby Whitlock Rock Your Sox Off", AllMusic (retrieved September 29, 2013).
- Listing: "Maggie Bell and Bobby Whitlock – Put Angels Around You", Discogs (retrieved October 2, 2013).
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- Whitlock, pp. 47, 239.
- Records, bobbywhitlockandcococarmel.com (retrieved September 30, 2013).
- Bruce Eder, "Bobby Whitlock Vintage", AllMusic (retrieved September 30, 2010).
- Whitlock, p. 240.
- Thibodeaux, Tracy (July 24, 2013). "Pods o' Pop-Bobby Whitlock & CoCo Carmel". Interview. Pods o' Pop. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
- "New Bobby Whitlock Autobiography with Foreword by Eric Clapton". Eric Clapton Music News. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
- "The Official Website of Bobby Whitlock and Coco Carmel". bobbywhitlockandcococarmel.com. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "Derek & The Dominos Keyboardist Finally Gets Song Writing Credits - 977 Rocks 97.7 FM - Butler, PA". 977rocks.com. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- John Blaney, John Lennon: Listen to This Book, Paper Jukebox (London, 2005; ISBN 978-0-9544528-1-0).
- Eric Clapton, Eric Clapton: The Autobiography, Random House (New York, NY, 2008; ISBN 978-0-09-950549-5).
- Gary Graff & Daniel Durchholz (eds), MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press (Farmington Hills, MI, 1999; ISBN 1-57859-061-2).
- John Harris, "A Quiet Storm", Mojo, July 2001.
- Simon Leng, While My Guitar Gently Weeps: The Music of George Harrison, Hal Leonard (Milwaukee, WI, 2006; ISBN 1-4234-0609-5).
- The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Fireside/Rolling Stone Press (New York, NY, 1995; ISBN 0-684-81044-1).
- Chris O'Dell with Katherine Ketcham, Miss O'Dell: My Hard Days and Long Nights with The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and the Women They Loved, Touchstone (New York, NY, 2009; ISBN 978-1-4165-9093-4).
- Jan Reid, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos, Rodale (New York, NY, 2006; ISBN 978-1-59486-369-1).
- Michael Schumacher, Crossroads: The Life and Music of Eric Clapton, Hyperion (New York, NY, 1995; ISBN 0-7868-6074-X).
- Bobby Whitlock with Marc Roberty, Bobby Whitlock: A Rock 'n' Roll Autobiography, McFarland (Jefferson, NC, 2010; ISBN 978-0-7864-6190-5).