When Gary Clark Jr. won his first Grammy in 2014, he took a long moment to thank someone unknown to most of the people who were watching.
“Eve Monsees—I wouldn’t be playing guitar, I wouldn’t be playing music if it weren’t for her,” he announced to the audience. “She took me to my first gig and it all started from there.”
Since then, Clark has become one of the brightest lights in electric blues, performing with Eric Clapton, collecting eight awards at the Austin Music Awards for 2012-13, and receiving his own signature guitar from Epiphone, the Blak & Blu Casino.
The folks at Rolling Stone wanted to know more about Clark and Monsees, so they him back to Austin for a reunion with his childhood friend and neighbor. The event has been captured in Gary and Eve, the latest in Rolling Stone’s “Mastering the Craft” documentary series.
Sitting in the garage where they jammed years before, Clark and Monsees reflect on their childhood and their development together as players and performers.
Clark recalls how he first became interested in music after hearing Monsees playing through the window while he was doing his homework. “If it hadn’t been for her mentorship and friendship and support, I don’t think I would be sitting in this chair,” he remarks.
Here are some of the key moments in the video.
1:30 Of all Clark’s blues heroes, Monsees is the one he admires most. “People ask me, ‘Who’s your musical influence, who do you look up to?’ That was her.”
3:30 Clark and Monsees learned blues licks from a bootleg video of T-Bone Walker and other blues greats performing in Germany. “We’d never seen footage of T-Bone Walker before,” Monsees says. “So we would watch this stuff, and some of that stuff of T-Bone Walker’s is pretty fast.... So we’d try to learn from the tape.”
4:22 Clark found his life’s direction playing guitar with Monsees. “I thought I was gonna be the next Boyz II Men or something,” he says. “I didn’t know what I was gonna do. Being here in this garage kinda helped change my mind about what I wanted to do with my life. The guitar, the rock and roll was edgier, it was cooler, more rebellious. I was like, yeah, I'm gonna go do that.”
4:45 As eighth graders, they played Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride and Joy” for their school talent show. “That was one of the earliest onstage moments that we had,” Monsees says. Adds Clark, “It was one of those moments when I went, ‘Okay, this is what I’m gonna do.’ ”
5:37 While still underage, they would perform at Clifford Antone’s bar in Austin. “For me, the moment where it started to become real was playing shows at Antone’s,” Clark says.
8:00 Clark’s big break came in 2010 when Eric Clapton asked him to play at his Crossroads festival. “In 2010, I get a call from Doyle Bramhall,” Clark recalls. “He says, ‘I think Eric Clapton might call you for this Crossroads festival. You heard of it?’ ”