Clayton Byrd Goes Underground (June book club)

“A bluesman ain’t a bluesman without that deep-down cry.”


It was a rainy summer weeknight when we met to talk about this month’s book club book, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Garcia-Williams. The rain seemed appropriate.

Clayton Byrd, our book’s protagonist, wants to be a bluesman just like his grandfather, Cool Papa Clayton, a well-known musician in Washington Square Park. When Cool Papa dies unexpectedly, Clayton deals not only with his own grief but also with his mother’s anger over an absent father. He goes in search of some bluesmen and along the way learns many life lessons.


We started the night with a visit from Miquel Fuentes, local cellist extraordinaire (and brother to Jordi Luke). Miquel showed us different kinds of chords and chord progressions on his cello as he explained the history of the blues and aspects of the blues that make it unique as a musical genre.

We then moved to a garage lounge, a perfect place to listen to the blues and talk about the book.


Writing blues songs together was a lot of fun, especially when the boys performed them.

“It was like Cool Papa said,” Clayton tells us. “Happy people need the blues to cry, and sad people need the blues to laugh.”


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