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Austin Club Owner Clifford Antone, 56

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Associated Press
Friday, May 26, 2006

Clifford Antone, 56, owner of the namesake Austin blues club credited with launching the careers of Stevie Ray Vaughan and other musicians, died May 23 at his home in Austin. The cause of death was pending further tests, a spokeswoman for the Austin Police Department said.

Fats Domino, John Lee Hooker and B.B. King all performed at Antone's, and it became famous as the home club of then-rising Texas stars Vaughan and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Vaughan died in a helicopter crash in 1990.

Mr. Antone was 25 when he founded the club, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. "My friends and I in Port Arthur just wanted to hear the blues," he said last year. "We figured the only way we could hear it is if we bring it to us."

He said that "between '75 and '85, I don't think there's any question we were the best blues club in the world."

Sociologist Ray Oldenburg called the club a "great good place" where fans, local musicians and the legends could mingle.

"Stevie Vaughan and Albert King got to meet," Mr. Antone said. "These crucial relationships were built here. You know, Muddy [Waters] gets the Thunderbirds a tour after he plays with them, that sort of thing. I think we changed the course of blues history."

In 1987, he also started Antone's Records and Tapes, a recording label that featured many of the nightclub's top acts.

Mr. Antone went to prison on federal charges of drug trafficking and money laundering in 2000 and was released in 2003. The charges stemmed from a plot to distribute more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana and launder roughly $950,000 in drug proceeds. Dozens of conspirators pleaded guilty to charges in the scheme.

Mr. Antone also pleaded guilty in the early 1980s to a marijuana charge and served time in a federal prison camp.


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