Few people have held such a pivotal place in music history as “Cowboy” Jack Clement had. He worked with some of the greatest rock and country performers of the twentieth century and helped shape the genres at key points in music history.
Clement died August 8th after a long bout with liver cancer, just a few months before being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
He was 82.
Born and reared in Memphis, Clement was performing with guitar and Dobro at an early age. After a stint in the Marines he cut his first record for the Sheraton label in Boston, Massachusetts in 1953,
The nicknamed ‘Cowboy’ Clement earned in his student days while playing pedal steel guitar with a local band. His real step toward fame came in 1956 when he joined Sam Phillips at Sun Records as a producer and engineer.
While there Clement helped shape American music history by working with Carl Perkins Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. He also fielded and recorded a curly haired kid from eastern Louisiana by the name of Jerry Lee Lewis while Sam Phillips was away on a trip to Florida. The initial session included Ray Price’s “Crazy Arms” and his own composition “End of The Road”. Later the pair would record the smash hit “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and the demise of the 50’s America was sealed.
in 1959, Clement began work as a producer at RCA in Nashville. After some time in Beaumont, Texas as producer and publisher Bill Hall in opening Gulf Coast Recording Studio . By 1965 he had become a significant figure in the country music business by starting a publishing business and a recording studio, where he recorded Charley Pride and Ray Stevens. In 1971, he co-founded the J-M-I Record Company.
Clement wrote many well-known and successful songs recorded stars such as Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Ray Charles, Carl Perkins, Bobby Bare, Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, Jerry Lee Lewis, , Charley Pride, Tom Jones, Dickey Lee and Hank Snow. He also produced albums by Townes Van Zandt and Waylon Jennings.
He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973.