Country music legend 'Cowboy' Jack Clement dies at 82

Thu Aug 8, 2013 11:15pm EDT
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By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE (Reuters) - "Cowboy" Jack Clement, who inspired pioneering rock'n'rollers and classic country musicians, sometimes while prancing around the music studio in his bathrobe and playing the ukulele, died on Thursday at his home in Nashville. He was 82.

Clement died after a long bout with liver cancer, just months before he was to have been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, which confirmed his death.

Despite his nickname, which was a holdover from an old radio skit rather than anything to do with horses and six-shooters, Clement actually favored Hawaiian print shirts and was as far removed as possible from actually being a cowboy.

While he was not a star himself, Clement inspired the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and even U2, during his long career in music.

"He had a role in two really important changes in American culture," said Michael McCall, a writer and editor at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Clement played a large role in the birth of rock'n'roll when he was hired as a producer and engineer at Sun Records, where he worked with music greats such as Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Charlie Rich.

"He was there when Jerry Lee walked in, and who knows what wouldn't have happened if he hadn't been there," said McCall.

It was also at Sun that the young engineer wrote "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" and "Guess Things Happen That Way," two songs that a young rocker from east Arkansas named Johnny Cash turned into No. 1 country and Top Twenty pop hits in 1958.   Continued...

Country music artist Jack Clement sings a tribute to the late country music legend Johnny Cash, during the Cash tribute concert at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, in this November 10, 2003, file photo. REUTERS/John Sommers II/Files