Originally created 05/04/01

Brothers on fast track to stardom



Seventeen-year-old Austin Clark was with his five performing brothers at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, S.C., last week, but he didn't get to catch any rays on the sand.

"They keep us locked up on the bus," said the Dobro player and youngest member of country music's hot new act, the Clark Family Experience. "They won't let us do fun things."

He was referring to the managers and record-company personnel who keep the brothers from Rocky Mount, Va., busy recording songs for their new album (co-produced by Tim McGraw and Byron Gallimore), taping the pilot for a possible TV series, filming music videos, hitting the concert circuit and conducting a slew of interviews.

"We've been working a lot," Austin said in a telephone interview. "Our debut album (still untitled) is probably coming out this summer, and they are just about to release our new single, Standing Still. It's an uptempo song; a summer driving song."

CFX, as the group is also known, will perform Sunday at A Day in the Country festival at the Exchange Club Fairgrounds.

The other Clark brothers are Alan, 27, on guitar and harmonica; Aaron, 23 (who plays the upright bass wearing large gloves); Adam, 22, mandolin-guitar; Ashley, 20, fiddle and guitar; and Andrew, 19, drums.

They come from a family of 11 children. Their energetic performing, shaggy hair and bright-colored suits and ties caught the eyes of TNN cable network viewers when they performed on Gary Chapman's old talk show and then when they became regulars on the Oak Ridge Boys' Live From Las Vegas variety series.

Their popularity was cemented by their hit Halsey/Curb Records single, Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, and the single's music video, which aired frequently on the cable networks.

The group launched a concert tour in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Easter Sunday. The brothers will be at the Academy of Country Music awards show in Los Angeles on Wednesday. The band is nominated in the Top New Group/Duo Vocal category.

CFX traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia, in mid-March to film the TV-series pilot. Austin said it is about six young guys trying to make it in the music business. They leave their home in Rocky Mount, Va., and head for Los Angeles, with a lot of interesting things happening along the way.

And what is the working title for this pilot? The Clark Family Experience, what else?

"It was all new to us, but we had fun doing it, and we pulled it off," Austin said. "We were supposed to be in Los Angeles, but it rained a lot (in Vancouver) and was so cold you could see our breaths. I thought, if we need scenery, let's go to New Mexico where it's warmer. It's basically about us and what we are like."

OK, so what are the brothers like?

"I don't know," the teen-ager said. "We're nice, wholesome, fun guys, I guess."

The brothers, who formed the band in 1993, honed their talents at bluegrass festivals around Virginia. They learned from two other sets of brothers, Grand Ole Opry stars Bobby and Sonny Osborne and Jim and Jesse McReynolds.

When Austin was about 10, his father started him playing a Dobro, an instrument unfamiliar to many people.

"That's probably one of the main questions I get asked," Austin said. "I just tell them it's a guitar with a hubcap on top."

Reach Don Rhodes at (706) 823-3214.