O. B. McClinton

A black country music singer who placed several hit records on the country singles chart in the 1970s, Obie Burnett McClinton was born on 25 April 1940 in Senatobia. Growing up on the farm of his Baptist minister father, McClinton picked cotton by day and by night listened to radio programs from such regional stations as WHBQ (Memphis) and WLAC (Nashville). While his musical tastes included blues, R&B, soul music, and rockabilly, McClinton was particularly fond of country music, and he regularly listened to Grand Ole Opry broadcasts on Nashville’s WSM. To escape the agricultural work, the teenaged McClinton ran away to nearby Memphis, where he spent all his savings to buy a guitar, forcing him to return home. After completing high school, McClinton attended Holly Springs’s Rust College, which had given him a scholarship to sing in the college choir. McClinton graduated in 1966 and found a job as a disc jockey on a Memphis radio station, WDIA. In December 1966 he enlisted in the US Air Force and began performing at military talent shows. He also began writing songs for a number of soul music artists, including Otis Redding, Clarence Carter, James Carr, and Arthur Conley.

In 1971, while working as a staff songwriter for Memphis-based Stax Records, McClinton signed a recording contract with a Stax subsidiary, Enterprise, which wanted to market him as a country singer. A fan of Hank Williams Sr. and Merle Haggard, McClinton also emulated the breakthrough success of another black Mississippian, Charley Pride, to whom McClinton self-deprecatingly compares himself in “The Other One.” McClinton and Oklahoman Stoney Edwards became virtually the only other African American musicians to achieve sustained commercial success in country music in the 1970s. For Enterprise, McClinton notched two Top 40 country hits—the singles “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You” and “My Whole World Is Falling Down”—as well as such minor hits as “Six Pack of Trouble” and “Something Better.” Not entirely pleased with the studio production on his first two Enterprise albums, O. B. McClinton Country (1972) and Obie from Senatobia (1972), McClinton requested and received permission to serve as producer on his next album, Live at Randy’s Rodeo (1973). When Enterprise went out of business in the mid-1970s, McClinton recorded albums and had minor country hits for several other recording companies, including Mercury, Epic, Sunbird, and Moonshine. He died of abdominal cancer in Nashville on 23 September 1987.

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  • Article Title O. B. McClinton
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  • Website Name Mississippi Encyclopedia
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  • Access Date April 7, 2020
  • Publisher Center for Study of Southern Culture
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 14, 2018