John Clifton Sings the Blues

Nov 21, 2015 | 2015 Articles, Music, Sarah Peterson-Camacho

by Sarah A. Peterson

Fresno bluesman John Clifton has been performing both locally and internationally since the 1980s, and with his new album, “Let Yourself Go” (Rip Cat Records), which released last month, it’s safe to say he and his band (including guitarist Scott Abeta, drummer John Shafer, and his son, bassist Grant Clifton) won’t be slowing down any time soon.

Kings River Life caught up with the award-winning musician for a chat during his current tour in Poland.

KRL: How long have you been making and performing music?

John: I always loved to sing, even before learning how to play piano when I was ten. I’ve been musical since day one, I think.

KRL: What particular genre of music do you play?

John: Everything blues: 1950s Chicago, West Coast style, and 1960s R&B, but with modern twists.

KRL: What instruments do you play?


John Clifton

John: My main thing is the harmonica and singing, but I also play bass guitar, piano, and some mandolin.

KRL: What kinds of music did you listen to while growing up?

John: Lots of stuff. The genres that I liked, and still like, are Country & Western, R&B, Blues, early rock ‘n roll. I’ve always had a broad range of taste in music.

KRL: Who are your biggest musical influences?

John: Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, BB King, Muddy Waters, Hank Williams, Buddy Holly…I can go on forever. Each one has added a little to my musical and artistic vocabulary.

KRL: Did you always want to be a musician?

John: Simple answer. Yes.

KRL: What is your songwriting process?

John: I like to keep my songs simple; I usually have a few hundred one-liners going on in my head, and on paper when I can remember to jot it down. As time goes by, the one-liners that stick with me are the ones I will make a song out of. Sometimes I come up with a chorus and build a song all at once, but usually there are a lot of ideas brewing, the best ones eventually becoming songs.

KRL: Where have you played locally?

John: So many places…you name a local venue, and I’ve played it. I have actually been all over the world, playing music in 11 different countries. I’m on tour in Poland right now as we do this interview.

KRL: What is the best part of making and performing music?

John: Making people happy.

KRL: How has music affected your life?

John: It’s given me the opportunity to do things most people may not get to do: traveling, meeting new people, and helping people in need. Music is something that has touched me many times…it’s made my life interesting.

For more information on John Clifton and his upcoming appearances, please visit


Check out more local band & musician profiles in KRL’s music section.

Sarah A. Petersonis a library assistant with Fresno County Library, with a Bachelor’s in English and a Bachelor’s in Journalism from California State University, Fresno. In her free time, she makes soap and jewelry that she sells at Fresno-area craft fairs. She has written for The Clovis Roundup and the Central California Paranormal Investigators (CCPI) Newsletter.


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