Mahlon Clark

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Woodwinds expert Mahlon Clark was among the legion of players profoundly influenced by clarinetist Benny Goodman and the great popularity of swing music in the '30s and '40s. By the middle of the former…
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Woodwinds expert Mahlon Clark was among the legion of players profoundly influenced by clarinetist Benny Goodman and the great popularity of swing music in the '30s and '40s. By the middle of the former decade Clark was already proficient on three instruments--piano, guitar and clarinet. He was gigging professionally at the age of 16 with the Dean Hudson band, moving on to aggregations fronted by Will Bradley and Ray McKinley, among others.

But following service in the second World War, Clark's career took a turn toward freelance radio and studio recording as well as activities as an organizer with the musicians' union. These fronts were open and active upon Clark's relocation to the west coast in the second half of the '40s.

Initially, his involvement with the union went a bit like a man jumping into an empty swimming pool. Clark was a mover within a new faction among organized musical labor, the Musicians' Guild. Despite Clark's status on the staff of Paramount studios, the American Federation of Musicians gave him the boots because he went a-guilding, so to speak. Clark survived the head bang, going on to sit on the new guild's board of directors. He is also among the Hollywood studio musicians who managed to land choice parts on screen. The Rat Race is certainly the feast for anyone interested in really devouring Clark--he has an acting role in the film plus plays on the soundtrack.

A regular in the Lawrence Welk Band for several decades, Clark's discography is as well something of a buffet for name-dropping; like many studio musicians that nobody has heard of, he can truthfully boast of having worked with names the size of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Madonna. His height of creative control took place in the '50s in a relationship with the Jewel label. These productions include some of Mel Torme's earlier efforts. Clark was the first husband of Kathy Lennon from the vocal group The Lennon Sisters. At more than 80 years old, his still active schedule includes guest spots on radio shows devoted to vintage jazz.