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J.J. Cale

With his laid-back rootsy style, J.J. Cale was best known for writing "After Midnight" and "Cocaine," songs that Eric Clapton later made into hits. But Cale's influence wasn't only through songwriting -- his distinctly loping sense of rhythm and shuffling boogie became the blueprint for the adult-oriented roots rock of Clapton and Mark Knopfler, among others. Cale's refusal to vary the sound of his music over the course of his career caused some critics to label him as a one-trick pony, but he managed to build a dedicated cult following with his sporadically released recordings.

Born in Oklahoma City but raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Cale played in a variety of rock & roll bands and Western swing groups as a teenager, including one outfit that also featured Leon Russell. In 1959, at the age of 21, he moved to Nashville, where he was hired by the Grand Ole Opry's touring company. After a few years, he returned to Tulsa, where he reunited with Russell and began playing local clubs. In 1964, Cale and Russell moved to Los Angeles with another local Oklahoma musician, Carl Radle.

Shortly after he arrived in Los Angeles, Cale began playing with Delaney & Bonnie. He only played with the duo for a brief time, beginning a solo career in 1965. That year, he cut the first version of "After Midnight," which would become his most famous song. Around 1966, Cale formed the Leathercoated Minds with songwriter Roger Tillison. The group released a psychedelic album called A Trip Down Sunset Strip the same year.

Deciding that he wouldn't be able to forge a career in Los Angeles, Cale returned to Tulsa in 1967. Upon his return, he set about playing local clubs. Within a year, he had recorded a set of demos. Radle obtained a copy of the demos and forwarded it to Denny Cordell, who was founding a record label called Shelter with Leon Russell. Shelter signed Cale in 1969. The following year, Eric Clapton recorded "After Midnight," taking it to the American Top 20 and thereby providing Cale with needed exposure and royalties. In December 1971, Cale released his debut album, Naturally, on Shelter Records; the album featured the Top 40 hit "Crazy Mama," as well as a re-recorded version of "After Midnight," which nearly reached the Top 40, and "Call Me the Breeze," which Lynyrd Skynyrd later covered. Cale followed Naturally with Really, which featured the minor hit "Lies," later that same year.

Following the release of Really, J.J. Cale adopted a slow work schedule, releasing an album every other year or so. Okie, his third album, appeared in 1974. Two years later, he released Troubadour, which yielded "Hey Baby," his last minor hit, as well as the original version of "Cocaine," a song that Clapton would later cover. By this point, Cale had settled into a comfortable career as a cult artist and he rarely made any attempt to break into the mainstream. One more album on Shelter Records, 5, appeared in 1979 and then he switched labels, signing with MCA in 1981. MCA only released one album (1981's Shades) and Cale moved to Mercury Records the following year, releasing Grasshopper.

In 1983, Cale released his eighth album, 8. The album became his first not to chart. Following its release, Cale left Mercury and entered a long period of seclusion, reappearing in late 1990 with Travel Log, which was released on the British independent label Silvertone; the album appeared in America the following year. 10 was released in 1992. The album failed to chart, but it re-established his power as a cult artist. He moved to the major label Virgin in 1994, releasing Close to You the same year. It was followed by Guitar Man in 1996.

Cale returned to recording in 2003, releasing To Tulsa and Back in 2004 on the Sanctuary label and The Road to Escondido, a collaborative effort with Clapton, in 2006 on Reprise. Roll On appeared in 2009 on Rounder Records. A CD/DVD set drawn from sessions Cale recorded with Leon Russell on keyboards in 1979, In Session at Paradise Studio, appeared early in 2013. In July of that year, Cale died of a heart attack in a hospital in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California; he was 74 years old. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

foleygovtaff a i r s
Long love on in his music the founder of true Okie Boogie - JJ Cale
Sad he won't be hiding out in Valley Center anymore. He shall be missed! But we can still listen to these gems he left as a trail.
Naaa....tell me he aint gone!
nicko252008
True king the blues guitar
OH WOW just found out he's gone.
One of the greats. Always remembered. Left a great lagacy to the world. Magic. RIP JJ
GREAT MAN GREAT MUSIC,NEVER TO BE REPLACED.NOW PLAYING WITH ALL THE PAST GREATS IN WHAT WOULD BE THE BEST BAND OF ALL TIME.
GREATMAN GREAT MUSIS WILL NEVER BE REPLACED.YOU ARE NOW WITH THE GREATEST BAND IN THE UNIVERSE.
I dated this nurse a few months ago that works in a cardiac ward. She said she nursed some famous musician that died there last year. Yep - turns out it was JJ Cale and she didn't even know who he was. When I explained it to her and told her some of his songs she kinda got it. She thought he was just some old rancher. I just shook my head....
kvons1
The late--great JJ RIP: JJ
Descansa en paz, JJ.
castle_chris
Saw this great one several years ago in Ann Arbor, Michigan with my ex-wife in a little hideaway club. Just JJ guitar and little amp
Simply fantastic RIP
mzebari
RIP JJ
jaynann304
J.J. Cale don't NEED no stinkin' copiers. Why the debate about who's the best?? Rubbish. Mr. Cale was mellow, an original who refused to cow-tow to the music industry for filthy lucre. He pleases me.....his station on my Pandora is one of my absolute favorites. And Eric Clapton can take his lame, watered-down , white-assed blues elsewhere.
kvons1
Truly sad loss of another great and unique talent. RIP: J. J. --always liked your stuff.
jmeyers95
Only discovered JJ Cale's music a couple of years ago but he's clearly a great one who never got his due. I hope that many more will discover his genius in the years to come.
andylange1
A few years ago, I was hired by JJ to ship some stuff for him. When we got to his storage unit, it was all of his ORIGINAL master recordings on tape - 100's of them, including 'Cocaine', 'After Midnight', etc. After discussing the charges, the kid that was helping me asked for his payment to be in the form of one of the many, many guitars in the storage unit. John grabbed one, signed it and had his picture taken with my employee and his new guitar (the value was $1000+). A true class act!
Had many a beer while traveling many a back country road listening to JJ and digging his loping rhythms. RIP pard.
presleylafou n t a i n
TRAVELED MANY OLD DIRT ROADS LISTENING TO THE BREEZE ,WILL MISS HIS GENIUS FROM THE HEART
keshs
RIP, JJ
mlburton14
thanks for the awesome musical legacy J.J. strum well...
R I P , JJ. We shall miss you.
furtherlabs
I used to hang out at Music Sound World in Tulsa, one time I was there skipping school, and JJ Cale was in there trying out different amps.It was awesome to hear the guy play who has written so many rock classics.

R.I.P.
R I P lots of great covers of his songs.
p.e.barrett
RIP JJ, 74 is way too soon, we will miss your unmistakable sound!
Saw JJ play at the park in Telluride in the early 90's... This guy is unreal... there is NO bad album, no bad cut, no bad lyric... a cover artist's dream. So much groove, so much class, so much style... A timeless musician who will forever be a classic.
jdheller1
I loved Shades, Grasshopper and every thing that JJ Cale ever did - end of story - he's my #1
he has to be the most underrated perfomer of all time IMO
bsiv126
I saw JJ at a little club in arlington tx. it was one of the best I ever saw. that just brought back some great memories.
nicko252008
This is one of the greatest men ever to pick up a guitar...
JJ and Eric... no better mix!
I got caught with too much soul, bringing it back from Mexico.
Naturally is on my top ten list of best albums ever, and JJ and Ry Cooder my top two musicians. Saw JJ in San Francisco in the early seventies, and Boz Scaggs got up and played a few songs with him. It was like two guitars being played by one mind. Absolutely mind blowing! Thank you, JJ!
rock on jj is just all right,with me
Has there ever been a better pairing than J.J. and weed?
Just totally love JJ Cale. Got three cd's in the other day, playing every morning.
Great voice, catchy tunes, understated guitar style, and an easy loping style that just pulls you in every time. Many great songs written by this man and most def worth the time to dig deep into his catalog.
having a red & chilling with jj, sweet
I was first introduced to Cale's music back in college during the 70's. His sound is so distinctive. Love it!
wheeler5752
JJ Cale can bring me to tears so fast, like a knee jerk reaction of Happiness!
knopfler has made a great living copying jj cale for years
belkat
Inspiration -- not copying! The sincerest form of flattery, after all! JJ Cale is an American original and tops in my book. Love that sweet rootsy music!
kvons1
Thirteen Days----Pand o r a ? ?
U K artists, like many artists, borrow from the roots of the poor. In soul-rending American culture, as witnessed by the Stones. Led Zep, John Mayall, and, of course, Clapton. I believe JJ is a true inspiration to those that want, need, crave, or cannot avoid the limelight.
who cares? We are all richer for it, here is a big toast to JJ Cale, the true artist. His vision is vast.
kvons1
Clapton & JJ have similar styles on certain songs, but are both unique and each equally great by their own rights.
the best, Clapton is nothing
kvons1
JJ Cale----uniq u e and great style !
Da man
tbrannin4
Clapton hung out in Tulsa with Leon Russell and JJ, he was picking up on the Tulsa Sound and then grabbed Tulsa musicians from time to time since then. He also picked up some songs like Living on Faith from another Tulsa area writer. Clapton has always credited Cale, Radle, etc so I don't call it copying, I love them all!
Put em together and you got the best...Doesn ' t matter who copied who!!!
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