TIR 86: Headhunters Drummer Mike Clark Still Searching for the Perfect Beat


Brought to you by FUNKNSTUFF.NET and hosted by Scott Goldfine — musicologist and author of “Everything Is on THE ONE: The First Guide of Funk” ― “TRUTH IN RHYTHM” is the interview show that gets DEEP into the pocket with contemporary music’s foremost masters of the groove.

Featured in TIR Episode 86 (2 Parts): A living legend of jazz and jazz-funk drumming — Mr. Mike Clark. As a child prodigy growing up in California’s Bay Area, Clark gained worldwide notoriety and acclaim as a member of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters band. Perhaps the most accomplished and successful funk-jazz groups of all time, the Headhunters also included Bennie Maupin, Paul Jackson, Bill Summers, who has also appeared on TRUTH IN RHYTHM, and later on Blackbyrd McKnight. Together during the 1970s they lit up recording studios and stages with Herbie Hancock’s Thrust, Manchild and Flood albums as well as their own albums Survival of the Fittest and Straight From the Gate.

They included classic tracks like “Palm Grease,” “Actual Proof,” “Hang Up Your Hangups,” “Steppin’ in It,” “God Made Me Funky” and “Straight From the Gate.” Although Clark did not originally record it, he also carried the torch in concert for Hancock’s magnificent hit “Chameleon.”

Among the many others Clark recorded with were Betty Davis, Buddy Miles, Alphonso Johnson, Eddie Henderson, Brian Auger, Patrice Rushen, Christian McBride, John Scofield, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson, Woody Shaw, Albert King, Larry Coryell, Lonnie Smith, Jerry Reed and Lenny White. He left the Headhunters in the late 1970s in pursuit of his true passion for more traditional jazz. To that end, Clark has released dozens of jazz albums under his own name and that of his various collaborators. One highlight was 1992’s The Funk Stops Here with his longtime buddy and fellow former Headhunter Paul Jackson on bass.

Despite some misgivings with the funkier and more accessible side of jazz, Clark along with Bill Summers spearheaded the revival of the Headhunters in the late 1990s with the Return of the Headhunters album. Since then, Evolution Revolution followed in 2003, with the live On Top: Live in Europe in 2008 and Platinum in 2011. The release of a new Headhunters project, called Speakers in the House, is imminent.

TRUTH IN RHYTHM caught up with the ever-busy Clark from his Manhattan base during a recording break and just prior to a West Coast trip. He proved to be a somewhat reluctant funker, as although that music is what has brought him the most fame and money it has also served as his ticket to be able to perform the straight-ahead jazz he loves most. Any way you slice it, Clark always has and continues to move to the beat of his own drum.




Scott Goldfine

As a fervid lifelong music & film enthusiast / student, I grew up in and around the Los Angeles entertainment industry. I have worked and held many positions in various media realms, since 1998 serving as Editor-in-Chief and now Associate Publisher for Security Sales & Integration, a trade publication serving the electronic security industry. I love several genres of music & film. The former includes funk (Parliament-Funkadelic, Prince, Ohio Players, etc.); blues (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Eric Gales, etc.); rock (Jack White, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young, etc.); hard rock (AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, etc.); jazz (Herbie Hancock, Bob James, Crusaders, etc.); R&B (Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Gil Scott-Heron, etc.); and more. I was a club disc jockey and ran a mobile DJ company (Musical Moods) for more than 15 years, which is where the name Dr. GX originates (Doctor Good Times). Fave film genres include horror (Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.); science fiction (Aliens, Terminator, 2001, etc.); action (Warriors, Road Warrior, Die Hard); westerns (Outlaw Josey Wales, Showdown at OK Corral; Wild Bunch, etc.); suspense (Jaws, Inception, Silence of the Lambs, etc.); drama (Apocalypse Now, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, etc.); and comedies (Life of Brian, Superbad, Ruthless People, etc.). I have attended many hundreds of concerts and movies (in theaters or screenings). I may as well also throw in a few favorite TV shows to give an even broader taste of my sensibilities. A handful would be Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Lost, Justified, Fargo, Seinfeld, Sopranos, South Park, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Key & Peele, Monty Python, Inside Amy Schumer, Louie, Modern Family, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Last Man on Earth, Bob Newhart Show, All in the Family and The Office. Fave authors are Stephen King, Clive Barker and Michael Crichton. I am also a big sports fan and lifelong supporter of the Dallas Cowboys (NFL), Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) and Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB). Also enjoy my family of course, electronics/computers/AV gear, and animals, nature and outdoor activities. Graduate of Santa Monica High School, Santa Monica College and California State University Northridge (Radio-TV-Film, Psychology minor). Also studied at UCLA for kinesiology/psychology and earned post-grad Certificate in Accounting from Santa Monica College. Present main occupation is as Associate Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Security Sales & Integration (SSI), which I joined in 1998. I am responsible for overseeing all editorial content in print. online, electronic, in-person and any other media or products for the electronic security industry's leading business-to-business trade publication. SSI is part of Framingham, Mass.-based Emerald Expositions.