Clifford Antone, founder of Antone’s, the Austin, Tex., blues club that helped start the careers of Texas music artists including Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Charlie Sexton and helped turn Austin into a city that bills itself as the live music capital of the world, died at his home there on Tuesday. He was 56.
Mr. Antone was found dead when Austin police officers responded to a 911 call from his home, said Laura Albrecht, a spokeswoman for the department. The cause of death is being investigated but does not appear to be suspicious, she said.
In 1975 he opened Antone’s, first intended as a showcase for his beloved Chicago blues. Over the years, legends like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and B. B. King performed at the club.
“Amid this sea of scenemakers,” Robert Draper wrote in a 1997 profile for Texas Monthly magazine, Mr. Antone was “the unmistakable maker of the scene” who provided an “Atlas-like patronage of this most American of music forms.”
In the late 1960’s, Mr. Antone moved to Austin from Port Arthur, Tex., where he grew up, to attend the University of Texas; for the last few years he taught a course at the university on the history of the blues.
A 2004 documentary titled “Antone’s: Home of the Blues” premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival and is being released on DVD next month.
In 1987 Mr. Antone started Antone’s Records, a label that featured many of the club’s top acts, and also opened a record store specializing in American roots music.
The 30 years since he opened Antone’s were not always a smooth ride for Mr. Antone, who served two prison terms, one in the 1980’s for possessing marijuana and another from 2000 to 2002 for dealing more than 9,000 pounds of the drug and laundering money. After the first conviction he had to give up ownership of the club; Antone’s is currently owned by a board of directors headed by his sister, Susan Antone, who survives him.
Mr. Antone was known for his generosity to musicians. He organized a series of benefits for victims of Hurricane Katrina and recently he helped arrange an apartment and nursing care for the 92-year-old pianist Pinetop Perkins.