Born on February 4, 1962, in Long Branch, NJ; son of G. A. (a crane operator) and Ann Black; married Lisa Hartman (an actress), October 20, 1991; children: Lily Pearl, born May 8, 2001. Addresses: Record company--Equity Music Group, P.O. Box 331666, Nashville, TN 37203, website: http://www.equitymusicgroup.com. Management--Morey Management, 9255 Sunset Blvd., Ste. 600, Los Angeles, CA 90069. Website--Clint Black Official Website: http://www.clintblack.com.
Throughout the 1990s the country charts were dominated by a new young star named Clint Black, a Houston-based honky tonker with an expressive voice and movie star good looks. Black's debut album, Killin' Time, went platinum and spent a phenomenal eight months at number one on the Billboard lists, and he placed no fewer than five singles in the country top ten as well. Few stars have climbed to fame so quickly on the strength of just one album.
"Boy, it's like jumpin' into a car doing eighty," Black told Rolling Stone, of his sudden success. Once the front singer in an anonymous bar band, "I'd pretty much been living off nightclub gigs for the past eight or nine years," Black told Country America magazine. "I made ends meet, but I never could keep up with the bills. Now I find I can keep up with the bills and have a little extra too."
Such modest expectations are typical of Clint Black, a singer who has sought success because he dearly loves to perform. Black was born in New Jersey in 1962, but was raised in Texas, where his father worked as a crane operator. The youngest of four boys, Black barely missed being called Cole by a father who loved Cole Porter. His father backed off the name Cole Black, he told Country America, only "because we thought he'd take a ribbing for it." Black was "painfully short" and described himself in People as "a loner" who "wasn't popular with girls." In high school Black began to pick guitar and sing. He entered a school talent show as a junior and won second place. From then on, he told People, "I took my guitar everywhere I went. I was obsessed."
Soon after he graduated from high school in 1980, Black hit the nightclub circuit in Houston, playing and singing covers of Merle Haggard, Loggins and Messina, Charlie Daniels, Willie Nelson, and even Dire Straits. The living was meager, to say the least, and to help make ends meet he also worked in construction. Black slowly began to incorporate his own material into his act, mainly Haggard-esque honky tonk ballads and tales of lost love. In order to publicize his appearances, he used his own pocket money to print flyers that were distributed in the Houston area.
In 1987 Black met guitarist Hayden Nicholas at a gig. Nicholas joined Black's band and began providing tunes for Black's lyrics. The following year, producer Bill Ham (ZZ Top and others) caught Black's performance at a Houston club. Ham was impressed and offered his considerable services to the band. Black recalled in People that Ham asked, "'Clint, do you want to be a star?' And I said, 'Yup.'" Within five months Black had a recording contract with RCA Records. When he arrived in Nashville to cut his album, it was his first time inside a recording studio.
Most country musicians---especially newcomers---record with seasoned studio veterans as backup. Black insisted on recording with his road band, thus preserving the intimate quality of his live work. On Killin' Time, Black sings lead and plays guitar; the album is entirely composed of songs he wrote alone or with Nicholas. Killin' Time was released in 1989, and the debut was auspicious from the start. Black's first single release, "A Better Man," climbed to number one on the country charts---the first debut single to do so in 14 years. Subsequent number one hits from Killin' Time included the title cut as well as "Walkin' Away" and "Nothing's News."
Many of Black's lyrics deal with the consequences of a broken heart. Some of the tunes are traditional heartbreak fare, but others reflect the lessons to be learned from any life experience. In "A Better Man," for instance, Black thanks a departed sweetheart for giving him confidence to pursue his goals. "Walkin' Away," also a hit, suggests that it's best to end a bad relationship and search for "the right one" instead. Black's superhit "Killin' Time" takes the message a step further, in a frank disavowal of "drinking to forget." All of Black's music is Texan in flavor, with a honky tonk beat and steel guitar accompaniment that has become less prominent over time.
During an era when country music made great commercial inroads, Black was among the genre's biggest stars, second only to Garth Brooks. A string of major country hits eventually led to television appearances and sold-out concerts nationwide. His talents as a songwriter and singer notwithstanding, it was probably Black's looks and stage presence that initially helped propel his album to platinum sales. His handsome appearance and pleasant demeanor got him chosen as by People as one of their "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" in 1991. That was the same year Black crushed a lot of female hearts by marrying singer-actress Lisa Hartman, then hot off the CBS nighttime drama Knots Landing. The Blacks have had a happy marriage and an occasional show-biz partnership that has allowed Clint to wet his feet as an actor, and Lisa to occasionally record an album or appear with her husband on stage.
Black's acting abilities will never earn him the awards or sales that his music has. Despite a 1992 dispute with management that nearly derailed his career, the singer-songwriter kept racking up major country hits up into the early 2000s. A few like "Something That We Do" and "Been There" even enjoyed pop music airplay. After a six-year absence from the recording studio, Black announced that he and Nashville executive Mike Kraski were forming The Equity Music Group, where he released two albums in 2004. The innovative new company has promised to allow its artists ownership in everything they create, from songs and recordings to merchandising. Naturally, much of this label's success will depend on Black's ability to record hit products. Early results have been mixed, with both singles and albums barely scaling the country Top 40.
However, Black is still a big star and is more than satisfied that he has huge audiences for his work wherever he goes. "I have to make sure that I stop and tell myself, 'Wait a minute---this is a moment I've been dreaming about and living for,'" he told Country America. "I used to say, with a sigh, 'I wonder if this could ever happen to me?' Well, this is it!"
by Anne Janette Johnson and Ken Burke
Clint Black's Career
Country singer, guitarist, songwriter, and occasional actor, 1980--; also worked in construction in Houston, TX, and as a bait cutter in Galveston, TX; signed with RCA Records c. 1988-2002; released first album, Killin' Time, 1989; had first number one country single, "A Better Man," 1989; appeared in feature films such as Maverick (1994), and the Adam Sandler/Jack Nicholson comedy Anger Management (2003); starred in TV film Still Holdin' On: The Legend of Cadillac Jack Favor, 1998; joined with record executive Mike Kraski to form Equity Music Group, 2004.
Clint Black's Awards
Horizon Award for Career Development, Country Music Association, and Songwriter/Artist of the Year award, Nashville Songwriters Association, 1989; Male Vocalist of the Year, Academy of Country Music, 1990; Male Vocalist of the Year, Country Music Associaton, 1990; Songwriter/Artist of the Year, Nashville Songwriters Association, 1993; Country Music Association Album of the Year Award (with John Anderson, Suzy Bogguss, Brooks & Dunn, Billy Dean, Diamond Rio, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Little Texas, Lorrie Morgan, Travis Tritt, Tanya Tucker, and Trisha Yearwood), for Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles, 1994; Grammy Award, Best Country Collaboration with Vocals, for "Same Old Train," 1998.
- Selected discography
- "Killin' Time," 1989.
- "Nobody's Home," 1989.
- "A Better Man," 1989.
- "Nothing's News," 1990.
- "Put Yourself in My Shoes," 1990.
- "Walkin' Away," 1990.
- "Loving Blind," 1991.
- "One More Payment," 1991.
- "Where Are You Now," 1991.
- "Burn One Down," 1992.
- "We Tell Ourselves," 1992.
- "No Time to Kill," 1993.
- "State of Mind," 1993.
- "When My Ship Comes In," 1993.
- "A Bad Goodbye," 1993.
- "Half the Men," 1994.
- "Untanglin' My Mind," 1994.
- "Whenever You Go," 1994.
- "A Good Run of Bad Luck," 1994.
- "Life Gets Away," 1995.
- "One Emotion," 1995.
- "Summer's Comin'," 1995.
- "Half Way Up," 1996.
- "Like the Rain," 1996.
- "Something That We Do," 1997.
- "Nothing but the Taillights," 1998.
- "The Shoes You're Wearing," 1998.
- "When I Said I Do," 1999.
- "Been There," 2000.
- "Love She Can't Live Without," 2000.
- "My Imagination," 2004.
- "The Boogie Man," 2004.
- Killin' Time RCA, 1989.
- Put Yourself in My Shoes RCA, 1990.
- The Hard Way RCA, 1992.
- No Time To Kill RCA, 1993.
- One Emotion RCA, 1994.
- Looking For Christmas RCA, 1995.
- Greatest Hits RCA, 1996.
- Nothin' But the Tailights RCA, 1997.
- D'Lectrified RCA, 1999.
- Greatest Hits, Volume 2 RCA, 2001.
- Spend My Time Equity Music Group, 2004.
- Christmas with You Equity Music Group, 2004.
October 4, 2005: Black's album, Drinkin' Songs & Other Logic, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_3/index.jsp, October 7, 2005.
- McCloud, Barry, Definitive Country: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Country Music and Its Performers, Perigree Books, 1995.
- Stambler, Irwin, and Grelun Landon, Country Music: The Encyclopedia, St. Martin's Griffin, 1997.
- Country America, September 1990.
- New York, October 2, 1989.
- People, September 11, 1989.
- Rolling Stone, September 21, 1990.
- "Clint Black," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (December 28, 2004).
- "Clint Black," Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com (December 28, 2004).