Singer and producer Jack Clement has died. He was 82 and had been battling liver cancer. Known to most as “Cowboy Jack,” Clement spent most of his life working in the music industry and was just recently named an inductee into the Country Music Hall Of Fame.
Clement started working as a producer and engineer for Sun Records in Memphis in 1956. There, he worked with Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash, and is credited with discovering Jerry Lee Lewis. One of the songs Clement recorded Lewis performing, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” is now preserved in the Library Of Congress. Clement also wrote a number of songs for Cash in the ‘50s, including “Ballad Of A Teenage Queen” and “Guess Things Happen That Way.”
After Sun fired Clement in 1959, he moved to Nashville. In 1961, he moved farther south to Beaumont, Texas to open the Gulf Coast Recording Studio and the Hall-Clement publishing company. There he convinced George Jones to record Dickey Lee’s “She Thinks I Still Care,” which went to No. 1 and is now in the Grammy Hall Of Fame. Clement also convinced Jones to record a track he’d written, “Just Someone I Used To Know,” which would later become a No. 5 hit for Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner. In 1963, while Clement was still in Beaumont, he produced Cash’s “Ring Of Fire,” which went to No. 1.
Clement moved back to Nashville in 1965 and opened his own studio and publishing business. Around that time, he recorded a demo session by Charley Pride, and subsequently convinced Chet Atkins to sign him to RCA. Pride’s first two charted singles, “Just Between You And Me” and “I Know One,” were written by Clement, and the “Cowboy” would go on to produce Pride’s first 13 LPs for RCA.
In 1972, Clement established his own record label, JMI Records, which put out albums by artists like Don Williams. Around the same time, Clement also produced the horror movie flop Dear Dead Delilah, which was veteran actor Agnes Moorehead’s final film.
Throughout his career, Clement penned tracks for Bobby Bare, Waylon Jennings, Tompall & The Glaser Brothers, and the aforementioned Cash, who also recorded Clement compositions like “Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog” and “Flushed From The Bathroom Of Your Heart.”
In 1978 Clement released an album of his own, All I Want To Do In Life on Elektra records. Though the record contained three singles—“We Must Believe In Magic,” “When I Dream,” and “All I Want To Do In Life”—none of the tracks made much of a dent on the country charts.
Around this time, Clement was also famous for his home on Nashville’s Belmont Ave. Dubbed the “Cowboy Arms Hotel And Recording Spa,” it was a popular hangout for singers and songwriters—including U2, who spent time there around the recording of 1988’s Rattle And Hum, for which Clement produced three tracks. In 2011, the house and much of its historical memorabilia was destroyed by fire.
Clement has been the subject of two documentaries: 2005’s Cowboy Jack’s Home Movies and 2007’s Shakespeare Was A Big George Jones Fan. He was also a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame, the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame, the Music City Walk Of Fame, and will be inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame this October. He received a lifetime achievement award from the Americana Music Association in 2004.
In January of this year, Clement was honored with a tribute concert at Nashville’s War Memorial. Kris Kristofferson, John Prine, Amos Lee, Del McCoury, Tim O’Brien, Sam Bush, Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, T Bone Burnett, Jakob Dylan, Buddy Miller, John Hiatt, and Dan Auerbach performed. Former President Bill Clinton, Taylor Swift, Marty Stuart, Bono, Rick Rubin, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, John C. Reilly, and Dennis Quaid all sent video messages, and Connie Britton read a letter from First Lady Michelle Obama.
Clement is survived by his two children.