Life and career
McClennan was born on a farm near Yazoo City, Mississippi, United States, and grew up in the town. He played and sang blues in a rough, energetic style.
He made a series of recordings for Bluebird Records from 1939 through 1942 and regularly played with his friend Robert Petway. He can be heard shouting in the background on Petway's 1942 recording "Boogie Woogie Woman". McClennan made an immediate impact in 1940 with his recordings of "Shake 'Em on Down", "Bottle It Up and Go", "Whiskey Headed Woman" and "New Highway No.51".
He left a powerful legacy that included "Bottle It Up and Go," "Cross Cut Saw Blues" later covered by Albert King, "My Baby's Gone" (covered and adapted by Moon Mullican), "Deep Blue Sea Blues" (aka "Catfish Blues"), and others whose lasting power has been evidenced through the repertoires and re-recordings of other artists. McClennan's "I'm A Guitar King" was included on the 1959 collection issued by Folkways Records, The Country Blues.
Although nothing is known of what happened to Petway, McClennan was occasionally seen in Chicago with Elmore James and Little Walter, two other artists who came from the Delta. McClennan is reported to have died from alcoholism in poverty in Chicago, Illinois, in 1962.
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