Friday, August 9, 2013

Cowboy Jack Clement Passes Away at 82

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Cowboy Jack Clement, a great renaissance man of his time, passed away at the age of 82 from liver cancer yesterday. Part songwriter, performer, producer, collector and resource for countless Nashville artists, his impact on music cannot be overstated. Here are just some of the accomplishments he achieved in his long career:

In 1956, he became part of one of the seminal events in rock and roll history when he went to work as a producer and engineer for Sam Phillips at Sun Records. There, Clement worked with future stars such as Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. But most importantly, he discovered and recorded Jerry Lee Lewis while Sam Phillips was away.

In 1957, Clement wrote the song "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" that became a crossover hit for Johnny Cash. Other Cash hits written by Clement included "Guess Things Happen That Way", which was # 1 country and # 11 pop in 1958, and the humorous "The One on the Right Is on the Left", which was a # 2 country and # 46 pop hit in 1966. He produced Cash's # 1 hit "Ring of Fire" in 1963.

In 1959, Clement accepted an offer to work as a producer at RCA in Nashville, then the most important label in the industry. He would go on to write a number of highly successful songs that have been recorded by singing stars such as Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Ray Charles, Carl Perkins, Bobby Bare, Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, Jerry Lee Lewis, Cliff Richard ("It'll Be Me"), Charley Pride, Tom Jones, Dickey Lee and Hank Snow.

He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973. He also produced albums by Townes Van Zandt and Waylon Jennings in the 70's.

In 1987, Clement was approached by U2 to record at legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, TN. He had never heard of U2 but took the session based on the urging of someone else in his office. The result was a portion of the U2 album Rattle and Hum ("When Love Came To Town" with BB King, "Angel of Harlem" about Billie Holiday, and "Love Rescue Me" with backing vocals by Bob Dylan), as well as the Woody Guthrie song "Jesus Christ."

Jack Clement was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Music City Walk of Fame and on April 10, 2013 it was announced he would be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

There are some tremendous obituaries out there that deserve reading including:

Peter Cooper at The Tennessean:

Julie Zauzmer at The Washington Post:

Edward Morris at CMT:

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