Bobby Clawson, 27, strums a guitar his grandfather made from a toilet seat about 40 years ago at Clawson Music store on July 1, 2013 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Three generations of men named Robert have manned Clawson’s Music store’s front counter, but it’s the family matriarch, Barbara Clawson, who held center stage as front woman. “She’s super, super talented,” said her husband of 61 years, Robert “Bob” Clawson, 79. “She can play anything you hand her.” Whether playing drums, fiddle, electric or bass guitar, the 1960s knee-boot-sporting blonde was a regular songbird at local nightspots. She later walked the line in Nashville alongside top performers at Grand Ole Opry, including Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Roy Clark, Conway Twitty, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tex Ritter and others.(AP Photo/Corpus Christi Caller-Times, George Gongora) MANDATORY CREDIT
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) — Three generations of men named Robert have manned Clawson’s Music store’s front counter, but it’s the family matriarch, Barbara Clawson, who held center stage as front woman.
“She’s super, super talented,” said her husband of 61 years, Robert “Bob” Clawson, 79, to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times (http://bit.ly/10LLld3). “She can play anything you hand her.”
Whether playing drums, fiddle, electric or bass guitar, the 1960s knee-boot-sporting blonde was a regular songbird at local nightspots. She later walked the line in Nashville alongside top performers at Grand Ole Opry — including Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Roy Clark, Conway Twitty, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tex Ritter and others.
“At first you’re so nervous,” Barbara Clawson, 78, recalled. “But when you take hold, there’s a calmness that comes.”
Country music has been a Corpus Christi constant since the 1940s, with noteworthy stars such as fiddler Johnny Gimble, who opened for The Roberts Brothers Rhythmaires in 1949, and later Sam Neely, according to music blog Corpus Gold, written by Ted Roddy.
“Barbara Clawson was probably the most successful and prolific of the Corpus Christi 1960s country scene,” said Roddy, an Austin bluesman who grew up listening to country in Corpus Christi on his mother’s radio. “It’s remarkable she was able to dig so deep into the Nashville scene.”
Clawson had more than a dozen national country music chart toppers, including the most successful 1968’s “One Bud Wiser.”
“It’s the one that earned us a lot of money,” Bob Clawson said.
The two of them have always been a team, his wife said.
She was 16 when they eloped to Reynosa, Mexico, in his yellow 1947 Ford convertible. She dashed into her house so fast, trying to avoid her mother, that she grabbed only blouses, she said.
“I was so scared my mother would come in,” Barbara Clawson said, with a girlish grin, “that I had to get married in the dress I was wearing.”
She learned to play guitar in 1957 from her new stepfather-in-law.
He insisted she couldn’t learn but taught her five chords and gave her a difficult Hank Thompson song, then offered to give her the guitar if she learned it.
“It was a really good Gibson,” Bob Clawson said, “and the next day she played it.”
She got the guitar and was teaching students on it herself by 1962.
Her husband worked as an instrument technician for Pontiac Refinery, about a year later, when Barbara Clawson opened Clawson’s Music store for them on Leopard Street.
The couple had about $1,500, which provided mostly 45 and LP records, some 8-track tapes, a couple of guitars and a few sets of guitar strings for stock.
They left the store in the care of a friend in 1965 to take a family vacation with their son Robert “Bubba” Clawson.
En route to Washington, D.C., they stopped in Nashville.
They dropped in at Stop Records and met founder Pete Drake, a steel guitar player who helped record many country artists.
“He listened to Barbara sing and said, ‘Let’s record this girl,'” Bob Clawson said. “He did, but he was working with Willie Nelson at the time, so we didn’t think too much of it.”
Her contract with Drake began a long career with the record maker.
“She captivates her audience with deep emotion,” Drake later wrote before his death in 1988. “Barbara Clawson is country and gospel music from the beginning to the end.”
The Clawsons’ country music world was first rocked by Drake when they received a check from Broadcast Music Inc., which collects license fees for music publishers and distributes them as royalties.
It was about $30,000.
That put a lot of guitars on the walls at Clawson’s Music.
The store grew, and things went well until July 31, 1970, when Hurricane Celia destroyed it, including photos taken with Grand Ole Opry icons.
After mopping up the mess, the couple continued to tour as “Barbara Clawson and the Nashville Beats.”
The music store rebounded, and they moved it in 1974 to its present location on South Padre Island Drive.
“I’m appreciative and thankful for everything we have and all those in our life,” she said.
Her husband’s response: “Amen.”