New tributes to 93-year-old guitarist Cliff Gilbert

Two videos recently posted to YouTube are perfect complements to the stories in the “Detroit Country Music” book.

Born in 1921, Cliff Gilbert started playing music on a fiddle at age three. Gilbert eventually mastered the guitar, and wound up inventing quite a few elements and variations of the instrument. Based in Flint, but well-acquainted with Detroit and its country musicians and nightclubs, Gilbert played all over the United States during his career. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, he spent six years demonstrating guitars and crafting components for Fender in California, before returning to Michigan. I recommend watching each video in its entirety. Thanks to veteran musician Lafayette Yarbrough for the tip!

I met Gilbert in 1995. He was playing guitar at a party for Fran Mitchell with Eddie Jackson, Swanee Caldwell, and Marv Weyer (whose guitar picking blended well with Gilbert’s). Bob Lowe, who produces a fine show called “Bob’s Music Time,” posted an interview with Gilbert in January 2014. Many thanks to Bob for featuring the “Detroit Country Music” book in this episode. The program includes some inspiring vintage video, courtesy Gilbert’s personal library, including a performance with Eddie Jackson and Swanee Caldwell at about 35 minutes, from the early 1990s.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles in Burton, Michigan, set Gilbert on a stage and turned loose an affectionate crowd in another fascinating video posted this month (April 2014). Congratulations to Cliff Gilbert, a true guitar hero and first-class fellow.

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