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"King Clarentz" Brewer Performs For Carver Day Celebration

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(Poster design courtesy National Park Service)
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Clarence “King Clarentz” Brewer is well known locally as a Delta blues/roots musician and an accomplished sculptor and visual artist. He came to KSMU Friday to promote a couple of upcoming appearances in the area. 

Brewer is one of numerous musicians who will entertain during the annual Carver Day Celebration Saturday July 13 from 10:00am to 3:00pm at the George Washington Carver National Monument, near Diamond, Missouri off Highway V.  In addition to Brewer, there will be performances by gospel singing group The Sensational Wonders, and percussionist/gospel vocalist Arlecia Elkamil.  The day will include exhibitors, guest speakers, guided tours, kid’s activities and more, and it’s free and open to the public. 

“I was approached to do this, and I’m really happy to do it.  I’ll go on at 12:00.  Looks like it’s going to be warm tomorrow, so I recommend getting down there pretty early.  The most repeated criticism I have is, ‘What—you’re already done?!’” So if you want to hear King Clarentz tomorrow at Carver Monument, arrive before noon.

Clarence brought his new resonator (slide) guitar with him to the studio—he had to “retire” his old one. “It flew from Los Angeles to Chicago… Los Angeles was 85 degrees and Chicago was 40 below. I had a request before I left the airport and failed to de-tune the guitar. So now it’s a wall-hanger, and it’s beautiful.  But this is a new Dean,” he says, referring to the new instrument, “and it has a lipstick-tube [single magnetic coil] pickup instead of a humbucker [a dual-coil magnetic pickup].”

For his one-hour set during Carver Days on Saturday, Clarence Brewer will play a variety of music, including a version of “Misirlou,” the tune made famous by surf-music guitarist Dick Dale (a recording used prominently in the Quentin Tarantino film “Pulp Fiction”).  You’re probably familiar with the song’s rather Middle-Eastern sounding melodic line—Dale was of Lebanese extraction.  Brewer researched the tune and learned that the melody long predates Dick Dale’s use of it. “It’s a tune based in antiquity.” Apparently originating in the Ottoman Empire, it “came across the Moorish peninsula to Spain. So it has roots in Egypt and all of North Africa.” Brewer then played his version of the “Misirlou” tune, slide-guitar style, during our interview.

Brewer says he first heard the song, not in the Dick Dale version, but in a movie that dated back to 1930. “And I remembered it from the circus—they’d play it under the high-wire aerialists.” “As it worked its way up the Iberian peninsula into Spain and on over into the New World, it became the music around the fire at the ranchero. So my thought was, something with that great of an antiquity also entered into ‘race music’ from the 1930s.”

Brewer has lectured and performed about roots music and cultural heritage for anthropology classes at MSU, and he says his program on Saturday the 14th at Carver Monument will include a lot of the same elements.  “For an hour I’ll review classic tunes from the Depression era. And I’m entering ‘Misirlou’ into the lineup because I think it’s a broader cultural thing that happens in the United States.”   I asked him if he’d ever performed at Carver Monument park. “I’ve been all over the world and parts of Nixa, and even downtown Springfield,” he joked, but this will be his first time performing at the Carver park.

The saga of “Misirlou” doesn’t stop there. The Ozark Mountain Gypsies, a Willard-based belly dance troupe, invited Clarence Brewer to accompany them at a performance at Lindberg’s on Commercial Street on Wednesday July 31st.  Brewer will accompany the group with an arrangement of “Misirlou”, “as it may have been in the 19th century, traditional Eastern European dance, that kind of thing. I’ll be playing a blues set too—it’s my franchise! So it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

For more information on Carver Days, call the park at (417) 325-4151 or visit their page on the National Park Service website: www.nps.gov/gwca.

Randy Stewart joined the full-time KSMU staff in June 1978 after working part-time as a student announcer/producer for two years. His job has evolved from Music Director in the early days to encompassing production of a wide range of arts-related programming and features for KSMU, including the online and Friday morning "Arts News." Stewart assists volunteer producers John Darkhorse (Route 66 Blues Express), Lee Worman (The Gold Ring), and Emily Higgins (The Mulberry Tree) with the production of their programs. He's also become the de facto "Voice of KSMU" in recent years due to the many hours per day he’s heard doing local station breaks. Stewart’s record of service on behalf of the Springfield arts community earned him the Springfield Regional Arts Council's "Ozzie Award" in 2006.