The Rise and Fall and Rise of Mighty Sam McClain

Vocalist Mighty Sam McClain is a Southern soul-blues singer who carries on in the tradition of vocalists like Bobby Bland, James Carr, and Otis Redding.

Mighty Sam McClain and Masha VadatLike so many other soul-blues vocalists, Mighty Sam began singing gospel in his mother’s choir when he was five.  By the age of 13 he was on his own, having run away from home to escape an abusive stepfather. Not long after, Mighty Sam starting working with “Little Melvin” Underwood, first as his valet and later as a featured vocalist in his road show.  He first found fame 1966 when he recorded a rendition of Patsy Cline’s Sweet Dreams of You.

Over the years, Sam created an ever-broadening audience for his singing with engagements at the 506 Club and later at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. He recorded several singles in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s before falling off the music scene for a while.

Precipitated by a fickle industry and fueled by substance abuse, it was a hard fall.

Mighty Sam found himself homeless and hungry, eating out of trash bins and sleeping on park benches.  Throughout it all Mighty Sam believed in one thing: his music.

In 1998 he released “Journey” with the song “New Man in Town,” later used in twelve episodes of the then popular Ally McBeal show.  But Sam’s comeback started with his CD “Give it Up to Love” in 2003.

2007 brought Sam into the “Give US Your Poor” project, benefiting the homeless. He co-wrote “Show Me the Way”, in which he and Jon Bon Jovi sang this stirring anthem as a duet. He performed at both Lincoln Center in New York City and The Kennedy Center in Washington, sharing the stage with Natalie Merchant, and the Greek tenor, Mario Frangoulis.

In 2009 Sam recorded “One Drop is Plenty” with noted Norwegian guitarist Knut Reiersrud, which was nominated for a Grammy.  The same year he was asked to record a CD of duets with Iranian folk vocalist Mahsa Vadhat. The resulting CD, “Scent of Reunion-Love Duets Across Civilizations,” reached number six in the European World Music Charts.  Their work together continues today.   His most recent CD (2012)  “Too Much Jesus” was nominated for Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Soul/Blues Male Artist by the Blues Music Foundation.

Sam shares the highs and lows – and the ever-present belief in his ability to make world-class music.

To listen, click on the links below.

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.

Shown above: Mighty Sam McClain and Masha Vahdat.  Used with permission.

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