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Clif Major, longtime Wichita musician, dies at age 65

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, June 13, 2014, at 5:56 p.m.

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Clif Major, a longtime Wichita guitarist and former owner of C Major’s Rockin’ Daddy’s, died Friday morning, family and friends said. He was 65.

Mr. Major was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2006, and his health had been declining in recent years, his friend and ex-wife Kathy Roush said. He died around 7:30 a.m. Friday, she said.

“This morning he called me to tell me that his breathing was slowing down, and he passed away right when I was on the phone with him,” Roush said. “It’s been heavy.”

He was a “brilliant musician” who played with Bobby Bland and Bo Diddley, among other greats, Roush said.

“He was a hometown star,” Roush said. “People have just continued to love and support and enjoy his amazing technique and style over the years.”

Mr. Major appeared on the Wichita music scene in 1964, playing in bands such as the Outcasts. The band, at the time, was “like the Rolling Stones or the Yardbirds of Wichita,” Wichita Guitar Works co-owner Curt Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he first met Mr. Major when Mitchell was a “snot-nosed kid” going into Mr. Major’s guitar shop.

“You could swing a guitar and hit five guys that knew Clif,” Mitchell said. “Clif’s been a real mainstay in the Wichita music scene for a really long time.”

Mr. Major first opened his vintage guitar shop on the corner of Douglas and Hillside in 1978, where he taught lessons. Local guitarist Tom Page said he met Mr. Major during these days, and though he never took a formal lesson from Mr. Major, he said he was “a gentle teacher” to him.

“It was always obvious that he was always thinking about music and keeping his hands on the instrument as much as possible,” Page said. “He never let things get in the way of playing guitar.”

He operated the store for 26 years, until he converted it into a venue where musicians – including, frequently, Mr. Major himself – could jam at night.

“I had a really good time playing there,” Page said. “Transitioning from being a retailer into a venue owner had its challenges, but he lived up to it.”

In March, Mr. Major was inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame for his work with the Outcasts, the Del Reys and the Jukes.

Tommy Crabb, 62, said he met Mr. Major when Crabb was 16 years old and has been playing drums with him off and on ever since. He said he considered Mr. Major one of the best friends and musicians he’s ever known.

“I think I learned more about how to play drums by listening to him play guitar,” Crabb said. “He could just inspire you by the way he played.”

Mitchell said Mr. Major’s last few months really defined who he was. He was last seen on stage just a month ago, playing at a blues crawl.

“He played up until the end, and that’s really what he lived to do,” Mitchell said. “You can’t really get much better than that.”

Recently, Roush donated a large collection of Mr. Major’s recordings and related memorabilia to the Wichita State University library. When it is processed, it will be available for viewing as the Clif Major and Kathy Roush Music Collection.

“His music is near and dear to all of us, and I’m thrilled to be able to preserve some of it,” Roush said. “His music – our music – will live on.”

Details about funeral arrangements were not immediately available Friday.

Reach Matt Riedl at 316-269-6791 or mriedl@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @riedlmatt.

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