Middletown mourns ‘a musical legend’ who gave time to aspiring players, fundraisers

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Gregg Clark loved playing music, and the only thing he enjoyed more was using his guitar as an instrument to help others.

Clark, who for decades played venues throughout Butler and Warren counties, especially if money needed to be raised for a worthy cause, died Monday night in his Middletown home of an apparent heart attack. He was 66.

“You could always count on Gregg if you needed help,” said Sam Ashworth, who played trombone in several bands with Clark.


Ashworth called Clark “a musical legend” in the region.

Clark, a 1971 Middletown High School graduate, was a staple at numerous musical festivals. It seemed he played every night of the week.

“There is a big hole in the music community,” said Sue Wittman, president of the Art Central Foundation in Middletown.

She said Clark had shoulder surgery last year that limited his guitar playing. He was scheduled to play next month at Pendleton Art Center’s anniversary party.

“Shocked,” Wittman said when asked about her reaction to Clark’s death.

She described Clark as a “classy gentleman.”

Clark was a Realtor for 10 years at Coldwell Banker Heritage in Middletown and was an active member at First Presbyterian Church.

He may be most known as the driving force behind Blue Christmas, a musical event that raised thousands of dollars for Hope House, a homeless shelter in Middletown. Tim Williams from Hope House said Clark and Chuck Evans were recognized by Hope House in 2016 in honor of the 25th annual Blue Christmas.

Williams said Clark probably never knew the impact the fundraiser had on the operations of the homeless shelter.

“He will be greatly missed,” Williams said.

Clark played in several bands, including the Royal Blues Band, Livin’ End and the Gregg Clark Group. He was a regular at the Lebanon Blues Festival.

Steve Barton played with Clark in the early 1980s, and they remained friends for nearly 40 years. He called Clark “a fabulous guitar player” who was dedicated to improving and promoting local musicians.

One of those was Darrell Sallee, who played duets and in bands with Clark, his mentor. The two met in high school and remained friends.

Sallee said playing benefits was Clark’s “calling card” and he led by example.

“He gave respect,” Sallee said. “He was always loving his fellow man.”

They talked Wednesday night about music and their medicines, said Salle, 64.

“Before I hung up, I said, ‘I love you,’” Sallee said.

Paul Nisbet said he became friends with Clark after he moved from Lincoln to Wilson elementary in the second grade. The friendship lasted a lifetime, Nisbet said.

They attended the same church and had dinner together last week with several friends at the Meadows.

Nisbet said because of Clark’s beard and “jolly” laugh, Clark reminded him of Santa Claus.

His survivors include his son, James, and special friend, Debbie Banks. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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