Don Clifton - Guitar, Bass, Theory


Call Don at 206.380.3248 to schedule a lesson.

Don Clifton is the love child of a voodoo priestess and a madman, raised by wolves until about eight years ago. It was at that point he began teaching the guitar full time.

Don grew up blessed and bored in McAlester, Oklahoma. Surrounded by country music, he vowed to become a tower sniper. His training was derailed at age eleven by rock and roll and his first electric guitar. He began studying the guitar with a piano teacher who bore a striking resemblance to Bozo the clown.

After a year of playing Olivia Newton-John songs and other things he hated, all the while wanting to learn some rock songs, he quit. He resumed his path of delinquency, which was once again interrupted at age sixteen. Under the influence of raging teen hormones, Don believed resuming study of the guitar would “help him with the ladies”. By the time he figured out it did not, it was too late. He was hooked on the guitar (he also had spent his very last penny on gear).

Don learned rhythm guitar from a nearby backwoods preacher. For lead guitar, he turned to the only person of European descent in a low-income housing project. An insane former Green Beret, the teacher was an excellent player. Done was forced to sneak his lessons under the cover of darkness. If discovered, it became necessary to outrun threats and pop bottles in a ’66 Chevy. He through it was a reasonable risk.

Don went on to study music composition with Frank Zappa’s Peter Acaro in junior college. After receiving his associate’s degree in music composition, he went on to study at the University of Oklahoma. There, he earned a bachelor’s degree in music composition with a minor in psychology. Believing he would starve to death slower in psychology, he went on to receive a master’s degree in the field. He began working as a child and family therapist, while writing and performing songs with the band, ‘The Restless Natives’.

He moved to Bainbridge Island in 1992 and joined the band, ‘Where’s Bob?’. Before eventually pursuing a solo career, Don released his solo EP, “Don Clifton”, which received national recognition and accolades from both family and friends. Recorded with producer, Tom Hall, and the rhythm section from ‘Heart’, it received regional attention and airplay. Don teamed up with another act, ‘The Dips’, and began performing regionally. Don and The Dips recently acquired three new members and a new name: ‘Ruby Darby’. Ruby Darby released their debut, “130 Pounds of Pep”, in the spring of 2000. They eventually grew tired of looking at each other and Don moved to Seattle.

Don then joined an all-male hard rock Madonna tribute band named ‘Madonna’, which Don lived while simultaneously referring to the project as “profoundly retarded”. Oddly enough, three fourths of the band went on to form a southern rock band named ‘Scattergun’. The music is dangerously close to country, but is being monitored closely for hypocrisy in relation to Don’s earlier feelings regarding country music.

As a member of the Fremont Music School in Seattle, Don teaches guitar full-time. He stresses applied theory and building on the strengths of his students. His primary styles are folk, rock, surf, classic rock, hard rock, blues, southern rock, harder than hard rock, and yes, even country. However, he tries to help his students know how to get by in all styles. He encourages them to learn improvisation skills and to try their hand at creating their own material. He also enjoys teaching his students the songs that they like, and he prays these aren’t by Olivia Newton-John.