Millard Clark

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By founding the first Native American recording label, Millard Clark remains a giant inspiration to this forever-active music scene. Nearly half a century after releasing the first recording on his Indian…
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By founding the first Native American recording label, Millard Clark remains a giant inspiration to this forever-active music scene. Nearly half a century after releasing the first recording on his Indian Sounds label, the wise man was still right on top of his form, conducting a panel for the National Indian Education Associaton on the subject of how young musicians are empowered to jump-start their careers through use of new recording technology. Clark is a giant presence in Native American music, one foot firmly planted in the past with his catalog of productions representing many different native musical traditions, and the other in the future courtesy of his progressive spirit and seemingly limitless energy.

A mix of Cheyenne and Comanche blood, Clark came into music in a most common manner, through his family. It was what he did with it that was so remarkable, as he realized not only the historical but commercial potential of creating an archive of recordings of Native American music. A demand has always existed for such recordings, particularly at powwows nationwide where it is quite easy for groups or distributors to sell direct to customers, and the market for cassettes has been continually steady. But by the early '90s, the new age musical genre was growing like mold, providing a certain amount of commerce for Native American music via its spirituality or the hauntingly transcendent sound of its flute music, as well as a new demand for such recordings on supposedly pristine, indestructible compact discs. By establishing his label and maintaining a high-quality catalog, Clark has been able to take advantage of these and other developing cultural trends.

As a musician, Clark has always remained very active. He has recorded many albums leading singing groups including Kiowa Flag Song in 1985 or his releases with the Southern Singers, a group he appears with regularly at powwows across the country. Clark is a presence at many of these events, usually featured as a head singer of Southern plains powwow music. As a drummer, he recorded the valuable Drums of the American Indian set in which he presents a series of medium and slow Southern drum beats as a soloist, as well as performing pieces on small percussion instruments such as shakers, rattles, bells, a water drum, and even an instrument made out of a deer's toes. He has also collaborated with flautist William Gutierrez.

He established Indian Sounds in the early '60s to produce Native American performers from a variety of different styles and also to encompass artists from other types of performing arts, such as the highly regarded storyteller Jackalene Crow. Presenting the more traditional forms of Native American music in high quality sound production setting has been a top priority, and the label's catalog encompasses recordings of the traditional Zuni, Navajo, Kiowa Sioux, and Comanche music among others. Clark's label also carries Northern Plains powwow music, flute music performed by people of many different Indian nations. And that's far from the end of it, as the label has also branched off into the blues, poetry, humor, storytelling, language tapes, religious music (both traditional and Christian), social songs, and the Osage Sweat Lodge Ceremony.