When music legend Delbert McClinton rolls into Augusta Saturday night to play the Hot Southern Night concert for the Augusta Red Cross, he'll bring an innate understanding of musical history.
For more than three decades, Mr. McClinton has mixed American music gumbo style. The result is a sound that remains unique while still recalling its country, rock and rhythm and blues influences.
"I love American music," he said. "I think it's because I grew up in a time when music was changing. I was about 14 around the time rock 'n' roll was born. I grew up in west Texas, so I heard a lot of country, too. I think that's why I've never felt comfortable saying, `This is the kind of music I play,' because I really love it all."
A trend-setter as well as keeper of the American music flame, Mr. McClinton has been a friend and influence to some of the music world's brightest lights. He has performed with B.B. King, Lyle Lovett and Bonnie Riatt, among others, and reportedly was the inspiration for the famous harmonica lick that opens the Beatles' Love Me Do.
Mr. McClinton said that he still makes music for only one person.
"The only person I'm trying to please with my music is me," he said. "I just write music about things that happen to me and things I care about. I write about the things I love to hate and hate to love."
The transient life of a professional musician can be tough on families, and Mr. McClinton said that it took quite a while for him to learn to prioritize.
"Family comes before music now, and my music has never been better," he said. "I've finally got it right, and having it right is the best, most important thing in the world to me. I've got two sons who grew up with me gone most of the time that I'm very close to. Now I've also got a 7-year-old daughter and a wife, and my family is the most important part of my life."
Each January he sponsors a music cruise with acts such as the Derailers and John Hiatt joining him and a shipload of travelers on a leisurely boat ride through the Bahamas. He is also working on new music, which he expects to release in late summer.
"The stuff I'm working on now might shock a lot of people," he said. "It digs deep -- really deep -- into a couple of styles."
Joining Mr. McClinton at the Hot Southern Night show will be the all-star band Big People. Featuring members of FM radio stalwarts like the Cars, .38 Special, Ted Nugent and Billy Joel's bands, as well as guitarist/vocalist Pat Travers, Big People serves up a greatest-hits package from its members' former bands that plays like a car radio on a long summer drive.
Hot Southern Night benefits Augusta Red Cross programs such as disaster relief, health and safety and youth development.
What: The Augusta Red Cross' Hot Southern Night
When: Saturday, gates open 6:30 p.m., concert begins at 7:30
Where: Lake Olmstead Stadium, Milledge Road
Admission: $12 in advance, $15 at the gate
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.