Bobby Whitlock: A Rock 'n' Roll Autobiography

Rock & roll bookends

Summer Reading

Bobby Whitlock: A Rock 'n' Roll Autobiography

by Bobby Whitlock with Marc Roberty
McFarland, 248 pp., $35 (paper)

Anyone who loved "Layla" knows Bobby Whitlock's work with Eric Clapton in Derek & the Dominos, whether his name is familiar or not. Among rock & rollers, however, his name is synonymous with rock's belle epoque. Singer/songwriter/piano man Whitlock rose from the sort of background that such words as "gritty" and "rough" only suggest. Growing up along the Mississippi as the son of an itinerant preacher who thumped his son as hard as the Bible, Whitlock paints an unsparing portrait of a poor family who chopped and picked cotton to get by. A natural affinity for singing and later playing piano led him from church to honky-tonks around Memphis after he left home at 16, gigging at Stax with Albert King. After heading for California in 1967 with another Southern couple, the ragtag crew known as Delaney & Bonnie & Friends was opening for Blind Faith two years later. Whitlock and Clapton developed a friendship that led to his work with Derek & the Dominos and George Harrison, but it came with a price that took Whitlock decades to redeem. Thirty-five smackers is a lot for a paperback, though the photos themselves tell the story of a modern Southern Gothic. Even the names sound like Faulkner: Jimbo, Peapaw King, Big Mama, and the notorious Aunt Dude. Co-author Marc Roberty does literary justice to his subject's braggadocio, for the words sound exactly like Whitlock, a raconteur on par with Kinky Friedman and Ray Wiley Hubbard, and who spins these vignettes during his Sunday night shows at the Saxon Pub with his beloved wife, CoCo Carmel. (See "Superstar" for an excerpt from this book.)

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Bobby Whitlock, Derek & the Dominos, Eric Clapton

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