Home Latest Stories Legendary Crooner Clint Holmes to Grace Music Pier Stage

Legendary Crooner Clint Holmes to Grace Music Pier Stage

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Singer Clint Holmes promises an entertaining show at the Ocean City Music Pier Sept. 2. (www.clintholmesmusic.com)

By Tim Kelly

Talk with show biz legend Clint Holmes and you might just end up in a conversation as diverse and wide-ranging as the man himself.

Holmes, who steps onto the Ocean City Music Pier stage Sunday night with the Ocean City Pops Orchestra, didn’t hold back during an unflinching chat earlier in the week.  Among other topics, he took on growing up bi-racial in a virtually all-white suburb of Buffalo N.Y., his fondness for the Jersey Shore, and recollections from decades on the road.

It left us with the impression that concert goers will be treated to a show that is part career retrospective, part homage to his musical influences. It should be a musical tour-de-force of all things Clint Holmes, with full backing of our own Ocean City Pops.

The show takes place at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2. Tickets are $30 and $25 and available at the Music Pier box office and at www.ocnj.tix.com/Event.aspx?EventCode=1059135.

“The thing about Clint, he is not only an incredibly talented musician, singer and songwriter, he is also a great performer,” said Michael Hartman, Ocean City’s director of Special Events. “He loves being on stage and engaging his audience.”

Holmes’ resume, now into its seventh decade, is all over the lot: crooner in venues from small jazz clubs to giant cruise ships; accomplished songwriter and arranger; buddy to Vegas icons such as Sammy Davis Jr., even studio announcer for the late Joan Rivers’ two–year stint hosting “The Late Show” on Fox in the late 1980s.

Clint Holmes performs with wife, Kelly Clinton Holmes. (www.clintholmesmusic.com)

Casual music fans know him best for his 1973 hit “Playground in My Mind,” which spent 23 weeks on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart, rising all the way to No. 2. It also reached the No. 2 position on the competing Cashbox chart and was No. 1 in Canada.

Recently, Holmes carved out a niche playing rooms large and small in Las Vegas, his permanent home. He has also regularly played jazz clubs, such as the Cabaret Jazz Theatre in Las Vegas. He was performing at a small club in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., when “Playground in My Mind” was first played on a local radio station and soon became a hit.

“I am a singer, that’s how I make my living,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to work steadily. I was able to do what I love, put three children through college and never pump gas for anyone but myself.”

He’s looking forward to his gig in O.C. for two major reasons. His new CD, “Rendezvous,” was recorded with a full orchestra. This is the first opportunity for Holmes, who travels with a rhythm section, to perform it live, as the songs were meant to be played. The CD has been nominated for two 2018 Grammy Awards.

“We are going to have about four hours to rehearse some pretty complex music,” he said, expressing confidence that he and the Pops will mesh.

The other reason: “I love playing casinos, but some of the audience members may have been given the tickets as comps, or maybe the wife wanted to come to the show and the husband didn’t. This audience is going to be there because they love music.”

Hartman expects Ocean City to return the love. “Clint Holmes made part of his reputation just an island north of us (in Atlantic City) and what a fitting way to close out what has been a great summer season at the Music Pier,” Hartman pointed out.

Clint Holmes says he is excited to perform at the Music Pier.

Holmes is the son of an African-American jazz musician, whose World War II bride was a white British opera singer. He was raised in near-poverty as the only kid who looked different in a small, 500-resident community just outside Buffalo.

“To most of them I was the outsider, the black kid,” he said. “However, to some blacks, I wasn’t ‘black enough,’ whatever that means. I sang in the church choir, which had maybe eight members. I knew we were different. When the parties happened, we were never invited.”

Being personable, a talented musician and good athlete, Holmes always seemed to find a way to get by. And it helped that he was never one to shy away from going nose first into the proverbial grindstone.

Holmes said he developed his work ethic by watching his father struggle financially to support the family.

His father worked in the Bethlehem Steel Plant in Buffalo, as a janitor at the church and when it snowed, he drove a plow truck.

“It really wasn’t until I went into the Army (and served for three years during the Vietnam era) that I began to understand what it meant to be bi-racial and I began to explore my racial and cultural identity,” he said.

The irony is not lost on Holmes that his birthplace of Great Britain now has an American-born, bi-racial royal family member in Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, the former Meghan Markle.

“There are people over there who are still pretty uptight about that fact,” he said.

Holmes experienced his personal “watershed moment” when he met President Barack Obama for the first time, early in Obama’s first term.

“I wasn’t expecting this reaction,” he said. “But, I burst into tears and wept uncontrollably. Here was someone like me, who is bi-racial, who had attained the office of President of the United States. It just hit me all at once, and my emotions took over.”

Tears notwithstanding, Holmes’ career journey has been largely a happy one. He became good friends with R&B superstar Roberta Flack, and one of his current good buddies is fellow singing legend, Jack Jones. When informed he will be following the Beach Boys on the Music Pier stage, he advised us to check out Jones’ version of the Brian Wilson classic “God Only Knows.”

Holmes recently had the honor of seeing a major casino in Vegas name a showroom after him, and in 2007 married Kelly Clinton. Sunday night’s show should reflect his current station in life and the show business community.

“I’m going to be reaching back to my days performing in Atlantic City, and some things from the CD,” he said. “I’m also going to perform Playground in My Mind, which I have not done in a while, and maybe some fun Harry Belafonte-type things.”

He will probably also perform some of his standards such as, “Shouldn’t It Be Easy By Now” and “I Know What I Need.”

“It should be a good time for me and I hope for the audience,” he said.