Freddy Clarke | United States
Guitar – Vocals
I was born in Fresno, California, and my parents separated a year later. When I was five, my mother, Pearl, decided that she wanted a different life for me, so we moved to San Francisco, where her mother and sister lived. When I was 8, she encouraged me to take piano lessons. Then I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, and that was It for me, I was determined to be a professional musician. Pearl was supportive of my dream and bought me a St. George hollow-body electric guitar in a pawn shop for $50. She even took my friends and me to concerts at the Fillmore and Winterland where we got to see stars like Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. Wow!
In high school I formed a band called Utopia, and Pearl let us practice at our house. I’ll never forget that Christmas when I sat waiting by the door for her to come home with my present: a Vox amplifier! Utopia practiced every chance we could, and I started taking lessons from jazz guitarist Dave Smith who introduced me to the music of Bach on guitar. I developed a love for classical guitar, and my dad, Fred, bought me a new hand-made Yamaha Classical guitar, which became my favorite. When I got a job at the American Potato Company, I met Sherrie Haller, who took me to my first Andres Segovia concert at The Masonic Auditorium. Another life changing moment! Segovia’s flawless performance inspired more encores than I could count!
After graduating from high school, I continued my musical journey at College of San Mateo, where I studied music theory with Gus Gustavson. He taught me about Buckminster Fuller’s idea of synergy — that the total is more than the sum of its parts — and how this relates to the reciprocity that exists in the musical conversation that takes place between musicians during a performance. Little did I know that this very concept would be the underlying theme of Wobbly World 20 years later.
I went on to study classical guitar at San Francisco State University with Rani Cochran, and privately with Narcisso Yepes, Rey De La Torre, and Leo Brower. I also studied music composition, emphasizing form and technique, with Roger Nixon and Peter Sacco, and fell in love with Igor Stravinsky and John Cage: Stravinsky for his creative approach to unusual instrumental combinations and sonorities, and John Cage for his fascination with random events superseding preconceived notions allowing freedom of expression through improvisation.
My father, Norman Fred Clarke, (Big Fred we called him) was a master craftsman, and when he was quarantined in the hospital for six months with tuberculosis, I bought him a book on guitar making. I never dreamed it would become his life’s passion: he went on to build fifty flamenco and classical guitars! The first one, made in 1975, is still my favorite, and I use it on most of my recordings. My solo performances and original compositions have been likened to “Segovia on acid,” “The Kenny G of flamenco guitar,” and “Smashing Pumpkins meets Gypsy Kings.” For me, no composition is ever “finished.” I enjoy soundscapes where acoustic meets electronic and sounds from other places and times are reintegrated into the present. I utilize digital samplers and drum machines in juxtaposition with traditional musical instruments.
As for Pearl, she became an exceptional singer specializing in Mexican folk songs and American standards. She and I performed often for friends and family throughout the years, and her heart and soul jumped out from every cell in her body with her lyrical soprano voice. We even recorded an album: Recuerdos De Mi Mama. She was beautiful, smart, lively, and a devout Catholic who sacrificed so much and supported me a thousand percent when I told her about an idea I had for a band…
I always listened to the news and like everyone, was troubled by all the social injustice and racial inequality. I felt there needed to be a way to unite different cultures using the universal language of music. “Wobbly World” is the name I gave to the synergistic concept of joining together musicians and singers from all over the world, incorporating quarter tones and different languages into the mix for a broader musical palette.
I am forever grateful to be in this field of dreams where I get paid to smile and add some joy to peoples’ lives. Wobbly World has had the privilege of performing for several US presidents, CEOs of major corporations, and dignitaries from all walks of life in some of the most upscale venues, but nothing compares to our trip to Greece in 2016 where we played for the refugees in the Syrian refugee camp in Chalkida. I realized the power of music, and my hope is to one day be the official White House band: Ambassadors of Peace traveling to war-torn countries to play and raise awareness and funding to help them.