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Cale, J.J. (5th December 1938-26th July 2013)

He was a singer-songwriter, guitarist and sound engineer born John Weldon Cale in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he studied sound engineering and the guitar and built his own recording studio.  After graduating from high school in 1956 he served at the Air Force Training Command where he took some technical training, which would later assist him as a sound engineer.

After his service he went to Los Angeles in 1964 with some other musicians from Tulsa and started work as a studio engineer.  As a musician and singer he played in local bars and clubs and as a songwriter his “Lazy Me” became a hit in the region for Mel McDaniel.

In 1965 he became a regular artist at the Whisky A Go Go club where the owner, Elmer Valentine, gave him the name J.J. Cale so people didn’t confuse him with John Cale who played with the Velvet Underground.

He recorded the demo single “After Midnight” with “Slow Motion” on the B Side in 1966 and gave copies to the friends he had traveled with from Tulsa, many being session musicians.  His work as a studio musician wasn’t so fruitful though and he returned to Tulsa in 1967 after selling his guitar.  Back in Tulsa he joined a band.

In 1970 he discovered, by hearing it on the radio, that “After Midnight” had been recorded by Eric Clapton and became a Top 20 hit and also appeared on Eric’s debut album.

This is what brought J.J. Cale to the public’s attention so he included the song on his debut album Naturally in 1971.   In 1972 he had his biggest hit with his single “Crazy Mama” which reached No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.  In 1974 Lynyrd Skynyrd included their recording of his “Call Me the Breeze”, which he had included on Naturally, on their Second Helping.

His next album was Really where he used his ability as a sound engineer to give the album his unique style and sound and the third album was Okie which produced songs that would end up as cover versions by many other artists.  These include “I Got the Same Old Blues” recorded by Captain Beefheart, Bobby Bland, Eric Clapton, Bryan Ferry and Lynyrd Skynyrd and “Cajun Moon” recorded by Randy Crawford, Herbie Mann and Poco.

In 1976 Troubadour was released and once again Eric Clapton’s cover version of “Cocaine” would become a chart hit.  In 1979 his 5 was recorded and this is where his future wife, the singer and guitarist Christine Lakeland would first appear on his recordings.  At the same time he appeared live with Leon Russell at the Paradise Studios where several tracks from 5 were performed and in 2003 it was released as J.J. Cale featuring Leon Russell: In Session at the Paradise Studios.

The following year, in 1980, he went back to California and lived in a trailer as somewhat of a recluse, to escape from the fame, which he had stated in an interview in 2013.  His album Shades came out in 1981 and in 1982  Grasshopper was released.  In 1983 his #8 was issued but to lesser success so he asked PolyGram to release him from his contract.

When the 1990s came around he took some time out but released his 1990 album Travel-Log, which was a solo recording that he produced himself.  In 1992 he released Number 10 and in 1994 Closer to You, where he used a lot more synthesizer music on the songs.  1996 saw the release of Guitar Man, which included the work of his wife Christine Lakeland and many top session musicians.  After that he took eight years out before releasing anything further.

In the new millennium his first release was To Tulsa and Back in 2004 which went back to the style he had become known for.  That same year he attended Eric Clapton’s Crossroad Guitar Festival in Dallas, Texas and he was asked to produce and album for him.  This led to the joint recording The Road to Escondido which included many other top musicians working on it.  He had written 11 of the 14 songs, two being re-recordings of previous songs he had recorded previously in the 1970s and it became the 2008 Grammy Award winner for Best Contemporary Blues Album.  In 2009 Roll On was released and in 2019 the posthumous Stay Around was issued.

A small selection of some of the countless recordings his work has been performed on by other artists include Picks on the Hits by Chet Atkins, Sound & Vision Anthology by Atlanta Rhythm Section, As Is by Bobby Bare, Queen of the Night by Maggie Bell, Reflections in Blue by Bobby Bland, Solid Gold Rapid Action by Marc Bolan & T. Rex, Reality by David Bowie, Renegade Gentleman by Larry Carlton, The First of the Singer Songwriters: Key Cuts 1924-1946 by Hoagy Carmichael,  Water from the Wells of Home by Johnny Cash, Songs I Can’t Live Without by Marshall Chapman, Can’t Let You Do It by Eric Clapton, Playlist 1970 by Marc Cohn, Naked and True by Randy Crawford, Collection by Dr. Hook, The Gold Collection by Dr. John, Georgie Fame by Georgie Fame, Rock ‘n’ Roll Soldier: Anthology 1970-2004 by Chris Farlowe, Memphis Menu by Jose Feliciano, The Bride Stripped Bare by Bryan Ferry, Country Gospel Classics Vol. 2 by Tennessee Ernie Ford, Amazing Grace by Aretha Franklin, Who’s a Funkadelic by Funkadelic, Don’t Let Go by Jerry Garcia, Angel Clare by Art Garfunkel, Star Power: Bill Haley and the Comets by Bill Haley, Ballad of Forty Dollars/Homecoming by Tom T. Hall, Angel Band by Emmylou Harris, Oh Happy Day by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, Greatest Hits by Instant Funk, Somebody’s Crying by Chris Isaak,  Return of the Outlaw by Waylon Jennings, The Gospel Collection by George Jones,  Two for the Show by Kansas, Second Helping by Lynyrd Synyrd, Words of Love by The Mamas & the Papas, Waterbed/Surprises by Herbie Mann, A Sense of Place by John Mayall,  Paradise Valley by John Mayer, Pais Tropical by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’77, Sweet Harmony by Maria Muldaur, Snaz by Nazareth, The Troublemaker by Willie Nelson, Keeping in the Family by The Neville Brothers, Juice Newton’s Greatest Hits by Juice Newton, Greatest Collection by Ted Nugent,  Southern Accents in the Sunshine State by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Crazy Eyes by Poco, Anthology by Alan Price, Revival of Old Time Singing by Ray Price, Live from Planet Earth by Artimus Pyle,  L.A. Reggae by Johnny Rivers, Hank Wilson’s Back! by Leon Russell, Zebop! by Santana, Early Seger Vol. 1 by Bob Seger, Free in America by Ben Sidran, The Rhythm of the Saints by Paul Simon, Misunderstood by Nina Simone, Live in London by Ricky Skaggs, 24 Hours Live in Germany by The Spencer Davis Group, Today’s Gospel Favorites by The Statler Brothers, Anyway the Wind Blows by Bill Wyman, Inspirational Favorites by Tammy Wynette, Comes a Time by Neil Young, Session Guitar Star by Reggie Young and I’ll Make Love to You by Mike Zito along with hundreds of others.

He suffered a heart attack in July 2013 and died in La Jolla, San Diego, California.  He was 74 years old.

There have since been may tributes to him include Eric Clapton & Friend’s album The Breeze: An Appreciation for J.J. Cale, “The Ballad of J.J. Cale by Kevin Brown and “Haverom a J.J. Cale (My Buddy J.J. Cale)” by the band Quimby.