The Summoning: Cass Clayton’s Music Comes to Life
Part The First: The Calling
Before the official founding of the Cass Clayton band, before any of its albums (and the exceedingly rare, scarcely found EP, Woman in the Way, for the die-hards), the chart positions, the tours, the tunes, and the terrific overflow of music it unleashed, there was, quite simply, perfection.
A penchant for perfect pitch, to be specific.
That’s what a young elementary school student, no more than about seven or eight years of age, was told after a fortuitous encounter with the music program at her learning institution.
Her pitch was perfect.
“It was at a little tiny elementary school in… Nebraska called Elmwood Elementary, and they had a music program,” Clayton recalled. “They brought in an expert and he took every single kid in the music program and brought them in the gymnasium with a piano in there. He was testing us and asking us to sing, and then he would go to another thing and be like ‘okay, sing the first note of that last song.’ I had no nervousness, and just remember coming home and giving my dad this piece of paper. It was like I told him I was going to Harvard.”
As ecstatic as her patriarch was about her singing proficiency, where Clayton ended up going with him, however, was practically everywhere there was live music performed. Bolstered in part by her showing in the school’s evaluation, and partly because of the genetic love for music they both shared, the family members made all the rounds at an eclectic bevy of live shows, from jazz to rock.
The musical preference was decidedly anomalous compared to the country and western proclivities of the surrounding neighborhood, and is responsible for the musician’s propensity towards funk, the blues, and other such music—which she would one day go on to create, perform, and sell, professionally.
“I think the first musician I ever fell in love with was B.B. King,” Clayton mused. “I was really young. I didn’t think that’s what I wanted to do, because that was just not in the realm of what I thought a girl could do.”
Part The Second: The Answering
Needless to say, Clayton has revised her opinion. Or, more likely, simply revised it in terms of what a lady is perfectly capable of doing. At present, the Cass Clayton band has just released its latest single, “We’re All Going Down”, which perhaps signifies a resurgence of sorts following a forced hiatus from formally releasing material—and performing live—due to the still ongoing public health crisis.
The rotating group of musicians (of whom, Taylor Scott, is the unequivocal music director and producers) last dropped an album in 2019, Play Nice. According to Clayton, they’ve been cranking out new tunes, concepts, and lyrics at a rapid clip ever since the studio was one of the few outlets they had. There are currently offers to tour overseas, significant radio play—for “Going Down” in Europe—, domestic ‘spins’ for the same cut on Spotify, and a new album targeted for early next winter.
With so much going on, it’s hard to believe the band, and Clayton’s role in it as its leader (which is now her full-time vocation), very well could have never existed until, believe it or not, about eight years ago.
“It happened incredibly randomly,” Clayton admitted. “I was a fundraiser for all these different non-profits. We were working on an event to raise money, and my friend had a band that I liked that was a blues band. I asked him how his band was and they’d just lost their female vocalist. We just started talking about music and he was like, ‘I didn’t realize you loved blues like that’. And I was like ‘yeah, I grew up on that music’. He asked if I would sing a few songs until they found another vocalist and I was like ‘no, absolutely not; that’s not what I do’…Anyway, we started drinking wine and he talked me into auditioning…”
The audition went so well that Clayton became the lead vocalist for Hogback Blues Band (the name of the band of her pal Dan Burke) for a couple years. The job was hers to keep until, at some point, she wanted to try her own hand writing, crafting, and even producing music, which eventually engendered the Cass Clayton Band.
The full-time musician spends the bulk of her time these days either writing, recording, or performing music—both with her band and in guest spots without it. She’s come a ways since her days working for non-profits although, as she explained it, the meaning of her current work is no less vital or, perhaps, curative.
“I was so done writing grants and throwing parties for rich people; I was done with that five years before I quit,” Clayton said. “I had just done it for so long but, I felt good about the outcome because it helps humanity. But, so does music, in its own way.”