Maybe you’re familiar with the 1960s hit “Wolverton Mountain” which narrates the tale of Clifton Clowers. It’s a million-selling record of the late singer-songwriter and actor Claude King. The success of the song was so tremendous that his followers and everyone who got hooked with the tune merely focused on it. As such, they failed to see the bigger picture of King’s career. Today would have been his 96th birthday. And to honor the singer, we’ll take this opportunity to explore his life and career.
Early Life and Career
Claude King was born on February 5, 1923, in Keithville, Caddo Parish, Louisiana. He displayed interest in music, sports, and outdoor activities at an early age. At 12, King learned to play the guitar. Being a natural athlete propelled his chance to become a recipient of a baseball scholarship grant which helped him finish his college studies. After graduation, he worked as a construction engineer for over a decade. While busy practicing his profession, King did not put his interest in music aside. So, if he’s not working in the construction site, he is performing music in local clubs and on TV and radio.
Early on, King met Johnny Horton’s manager, Tillman Franks, and recorded several singles. However, his musical breakthrough came when he signed to Columbia records in 1961. He released a few singles that entered the country chart.
It was also during this time when he partnered with Merle Kilgore to write the song “Wolverton Mountain,” which would later become his best-selling hit. After this, King scored 27 more singles on the country chart.
This song is a perfect blend of classic fairy-tale quality and Horton’s storytelling style. Employing a sumptuous Nashville sound background further emphasized its theme of youthful fervor. “Wolverton Mountain” enjoyed the chart’s peak position for nine weeks. Also, the song was also King’s big crossover hit. It peaked at No.6 on the pop chart while securing the third spot on the Easy Listening chart. Many other singers recorded their version of the song, including Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Watch Claude King’s live performance of his hit “Wolverton Mountain” below.