When I started going up to Sodom to visit with Dellie Norton in 1975, I was initially drawn to the old people - their wrinkled and wizened faces, their knowledge, their many kindnesses - and I photographed them to the exclusion of everyone else. It was my friend John Rountree who suggested that I was missing a lot by just concentrating on the elders, focusing on a dying culture while mostly ignoring that culture’s evolution, as evidenced in its young people. It was good advice.
I first photographed Clinton when he was six years old. He was Dellie’s grandson, the youngest son of Dellie’s youngest daughter Mary, and her husband, AB. They lived right down the road from Dellie’s and Clinton and his sisters and their cousins were always around the community and at Dellie’s. I photographed them a lot. Even then, it was evident that most of the young people had inherited the music and storytelling genes. They have the gift.
Clinton lives in south Asheville now with his wife and five-year old son. He has three daughters from a first marriage. We don’t see each other often. So, I took the opportunity the other night to go to a local restaurant to hear him play with his band Shooting Creek who play a nice mix of vintage country covers. Clinton has traded his guitar for a drum kit, at least with the band, but sings and plays acoustic guitar when he does solo gigs around town.
We had a nice catch-up visit, talking about our kids, wives, work. “I’m gonna be fifty years old this July,” he said. “I’ve been doing this music thing for a long time.”
“I know you have,” I said. “I’ve got the picture to prove it.”