As a singer, guitarist and songwriter he’s
an old-school mash-up of Keef, Johnny Thunders, and B.B. King.
See, the tousled guitar hero was but a 17 -year-old Cleveland punk
when he split for the sparkly glit of Hollywood. A fresh-off-the-bus
cliché? Nah, Clarke made it all his own.
He dived into the Tinseltown music scene headfirst and came up
swinging in Candy. (whose lone 1984 Polygram album, Whatever Happened
to Fun?, is referenced in the hippest of rock crit corners; copies
fetch hefty coin on Ebay). When the criminally ignored Candy soured,
Clarke fronted Kill for Thrills, a wonderfully strident, big riff
quartet (for whom Clarke penned the lion’s share of tunes).
From there, Clarke won Izzy’s spot in the Guns N’ Roses
circus; private jets, football stadiums and diplomatic immunity
followed. He spent three years on the massive Use Your Illusion
world tour that began in the fall of ’91. Clarke appeared
on the GN’R albums’ The Spaghetti Incident, Live Era
’88 – ’91 and Greatest Hits. While a member of
the band he was a recipient of the MTV Video Vanguard Award. Oh
yeah, let’s not forget… he has his picture on the GNR
pinball machine too.
When the Guns machine imploded at the behest of W. Axl Rose, Clarke
hit out on his own armed with a les paul and a handful of songs.
Hence his solo show, which kicked off in ’94 with the critically
gushed over Pawnshop Guitars (included the four-on-the-floor rock
radio hits “Cure Me...Or Kill Me,” and “Tijuana
Jail”), followed by ’97’s The Hangover (two cuts
can be heard in the Bruce Willis vehicle The Story of Us), ’98’s
Rubber, ’99’s 99 Live, and 2002’s Swag.
In the meantime, the guitarist began sharpening his studio skills
in his own Redrum recording facility. He’s produced many,
including LA Guns, Beat Angels and the aforementioned Rolling Stone
Best New Artist pick The Bronx.
For kicks, Clarke launched a couple of jam nights in LA. His all-star
Muddy Waters-inspired Blues Mafia gigs weekly at the world famous
jazz club the Baked Potato. Another, The Starfuckers, rip the Sunset
Boulevard porn-and-TV-star-studded den the Cat Club. Both nights
continue to be standing-room-only.
Oh, yeah, Clarke and Stray Cat Slim Jim Phantom, formed a killer
band called Col. Parker, whose rootsy, garage rock debut on V2,
Rock N' Roll Music, came out in ’02. That record made a few
year-end key top-ten lists.
In ’03 Gilby joined Heart for their national tour and TV
appearances. He oversaw much of Nancy Sinatra’s California
Girl record, and played guitar in her touring band.
When Clarke’s not off on some tour or tweaking rock ’n’
roll racket in his studio you might find him nosing around motorcycle
and classic car shows. Then it’s not surprising that Clarke
gets mad respect from the biker contingent. And well he should,
the man knows his Harleys. He’s been spotted on them everywhere,
from the grimy backstreets of Hollywood to the cover of Hot Bike
Magazine. In fact, Clarke mounted his Fat Boy and rode 3,000 miles
to the ’04 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally where he gigged with Heart
at the Buffalo Chip Campgrounds.
In 2006 Gilby starred on CBS’s Rockstar:Supernova. Gilby,
Tommy Lee and Jason Newstead started a new band and used the television
show to pick a singer. They released a record for Epic and launched
a world tour the following year. Gilby also played guitar for the
VH1 Rock Honors tribute to Kiss with his new bandmate Tommy.
To this day Gilby continues to write gut-bucket rock ’n’
roll songs with fat choruses. He continues to produce worthy bands.
You can find him slinging guitar and doing his Lennonesque vocal
thing in the Blues Mafia, The Starfuckers and on occasional solo
dates around the globe.
He’s also one of the sweetest gents you could ever hope to
meet. He’s a guitar hero, certainly, but also a gentlemanly
student of rock ’n’ roll.
-by Brian Smith - music journalist