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Cowboy Jack shaped careers of Nashville greats

JACK CLEMENT Music producer, songwriter April 5, 1931 - August 8, 2013


Music producer, songwriter

April 5, 1931 - August 8, 2013

Jack Clement, whose career as a producer, engineer, songwriter and arranger began in the early days of rock'n'roll and included work with country stars like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Charley Pride as well as non-country artists like U2, has died at his home in Nashville. He was 82.

The cause was liver cancer, said Liz Thiels, the vice-president of public relations at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where Clement will soon be inducted. "I've got a bunch of people who say I'm a genius," Clement, known to everyone in Nashville and beyond as Cowboy Jack, once said. "That don't make me a genius. But you've got to be pretty smart to get all them people to say that on cue."

His earliest successes came in the 1950s at Sun Records, where he ran the soundboard for the recording of early rock'n'roll classics by Jerry Lee Lewis and others. He also engineered the so-called Million Dollar Quartet session featuring Lewis, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. Three decades later Clement returned to the

Sun studio to help produce U2's

hit album Rattle and Hum.

Clement, who was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973, contributed to the repertoires of numerous country artists, notably Cash, for whom he wrote the 1958 country and pop hits Guess Things Happen That Way and Ballad of a Teenage Queen and provided the distinctive mariachi-style arrangement for the 1963 hit Ring of Fire.

One of Clement's longest association was with Pride, country music's first African-American superstar. Clement was a celebrated raconteur and the proprietor of a kind of social club where musicians could stay, play music, imbibe spirits and hang out: his house was informally known as the Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa. The son of a choir director, Clement revealed a knack for music and started playing guitar and other instruments while in high school, before running away from home at 15.

After serving in the Marine Corps, he moved to Nashville in 1960 to work as a producer and songwriter at RCA.

In addition to other honours, Clement was a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the Americana Music Association. He is survived by his long-time companion Aleene Jackson, his son, Niles, and his daughter, Alison.

Among his accomplishments, Clement persuaded Kris Kristofferson to move to Nashville, helping to usher in the more literary, forthright style of songwriting that revolutionised country music.

"He's the first guy I met in Nashville," Kristofferson said this year, when a tribute concert for Clement included video messages from former president Bill Clinton and the first lady, Michelle Obama. "An amazing character. Totally supportive of the right things in music, and funny on top of it."

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