If you're lazy or unimaginative, you could call Bobby Radcliff a blues guitarist. But in his case, the blues are just a jumping off place. Radcliff incorporates funk, country, rock and soul in his unique guitar style. The notes squirt out of his instrument like they were being boiled as he handles both lead and rhythm simultaneously. And while he's at it, Radcliff fills in for the rest of the band as well. On the cut "Kool and the Gang" from his '89 debut album Dresses Too Short on Black Top Records, the guitarist replicates the horn section, takes care of the rhythm section funk and keeps a stinging lead going all at the same time. Live, he's taken on James Brown's legendary band, performing "Sex Machine," playing all the parts including the feisty horn solos of Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley.
Radcliff doesn't sound like anybody else, but you can hear a who's who of everybody who is anybody in his playing. And just when you think you've got his style figured out, he morphs into somebody else's and keeps jumping in and out of others' skins until you can't recognize the creature that stands before you flailing and screaming.
Yeah, he sings too, and not in some little white boy whine--the man can howl. But you wouldn't expect anything less from a guy who wrote a song called "Ugh!" that's about as close to having sex as you can get without actually doing it.
So why ain't he a household name? A string of bad luck has dogged the guitarist for years, starting with a bike accident that so damaged his hand that he had to learn how to play all over again. But Radcliff overcame that and is playing as strong as ever in and around his adopted hometown of New York City. He hasn't gotten around much in recent years--he did make an appearance in Greensboro some years back with New Orleans guitar legend Earl King, who paid Radcliff the compliment of being one of the big dogs he'd be proud to run with.
Radcliff will be appearing Thursday, Feb. 13 in lovely downtown Hillsborough's new watering hole, Blue Bayou, located at 106 S. Churton St. Blues/zydeco chef/harmonicat Mel Melton will be sitting in as well.