BIOGRAPHY > TIMELINE
Note: The INTERVIEWS section contains transcriptions where many of the topics listed here are covered in depth.
Jack Henderson Clement makes his debut just south of Memphis in Whitehaven, Tennessee on April 5, 1931. His father is a choir director for Baptist and Methodist churches.
Formal Education: Levi Grammar School, Whitehaven High, Washington Bible College, Memphis State University
Jack is raised on the music of Roy Acuff, Wayne Raney and Slim Rhodes on radio WMC Memphis
1948 Semper Fi
From 1948 to 1952, Jack serves in the U.S. Marines (and has the tattoos to prove it). For the last two years, he is stationed in Washington, D.C. and was part of the drill team.
1950 The Seeds of D.C. Bluegrass
While still in the armed forces, he meets and works with the Stonemans, Jimmy Dean and Roy Clark. He gets a band together with Scotty Stoneman (fiddle) , Jimmy Stoneman (bass), and Buzz Busby called the Tennessee Troupers.
1953 The Bayou Boys
With Buzz Busby on mandolin, Jack forms a Bluegrass duo called Buzz and Jack, the Bayou Boys. They play on the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree as a comedy act for a few months, and then they have a series on WCOP Boston's Hayloft Jamboree playing many of Jack's songs.
(Buzz Busby went on to become known as the "Father of D.C. Bluegrass", his band a training ground for the Country Gentlemen and Seldom Scene).
They also play the Cellar in Boston with Ralph Jones and a bass player. Jack works in a band playing Hawaiian music and Country later that year.
1954-1955 Back to Memphis
He goes back to college and continues to play in the evenings.
During gigs as vocalist in a house band at The Eagle's Nest, Jack would yield the stage to a young truck driver named Elvis Presley to sing as a floor show, the guest spot between sets. The pelvis-thing tended to really get the crowd "warmed up". That makes Jack the rare act who has followed "The King" on stage.
1956-1958 The Sun Years
Jack had returned to Memphis to thaw out from the Boston cold. He becomes a dancing teacher at Arthur Murray's for six months, a skill that never deserts him.
Jack and a club-owning/truck-driving friend, Slim Wallace, purchase an old Magnacorder recording machine from deejay, Sleepy Eyed John, and set up Fernwood Records. With Billy Lee Riley intended as the first artist for their Fernwood label, the work tapes are done in Wallace's garage on Fernwood Drive in Memphis and in a rented studio at WMPS radio. They record "Rock with me Baby" b/w "Trouble Bound" .
Jack plays the tracks for Sam Phillips at Sun, and soon both he and Riley were signed there. Phillips recognizes Jack's abilities as a producer. Clement gets $60 per week, working up to $90. Jack takes over the engineering and production duties at the label and also auditions the hopefuls. Jack releases two singles as an artist while at Sun, "Ten Years"/"Your Lover Boy" and "The Black Haired Man"/"Wrong".
Within six months at the label, Jack makes the first recordings of Jerry Lee Lewis and begins a lifelong friendship and working relationship with Johnny Cash. He proceeds to engineer, produce, and party with the other acts - Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich.
One afternoon, they are cutting "Matchbox" on Perkins with Jerry Lee as piano player for the session when former-labelmate-now-a-star-on-RCA Elvis Presley drops by. Cash is there too, and some hymn-singing ensues. Cowboy figures he should roll the tape. Recording surfaces in mid-80s as "The Million Dollar Quartet".
1959 The Dawn of a Publishing Empire
Jack moves on in 1959 and opens Jack Music and Summer Records. Aptly named, the label folds before the end of the year. However, his Fernwood Records was still in existence, and in 1961 the label released Thomas Wayne's single "Tragedy". Fernwood also issued some solo singles by two singer/songwriters who were destined to become a major writing team, Jerry Foster and Bill Rice.
1960 Some Cowboys Hate Horses
Jack was at Echo Studios, Memphis, with Allen Reynolds and Dickey Lee when they dub each other "Cowboy" for a recording to a friend in the armed forces; Jack's sobriquet stuck.
In addition, Jack is busy commuting to Nashville to work with Chet Atkins at RCA. He gets to know one of the stars there, Jim Reeves, who later has a hit with Cowboy's "I Know One" and produces Del Wood and others.
1961 Down to Texas
He goes to Beaumont, Texas and works with Bill Hall, and they set up Hall-Clement Music, with Foster and Rice among their signees. Company later sold to Polygram. Jack also produces Moon Mullican, Cliff Bruner and Rod Bernard, and most significantly, the million-selling "Patches" by Dickey Lee.
Allen and Dickey follow on down, planning to teach school but end up working at The Tap Room which becomes the after-hours jam session headquarters.
1962 The Possum strikes gold
Cowboy pitches Beaumont native George Jones one of the great records of his career, the Dickey Lee-penned, Clement-published "She Thinks I Still Care". It goes #1. The Possum follows this up with a couple more hits written by Jack. Beaumont is to become the breeding ground of a next generation
of country stars, Mark Chesnutt, Tracy Byrd, and Clay Walker
1964 Dum-de-dum-de-dum Dum-Dum-Dum
Johnny Cash calls Jack in the middle of the night to tell him he had a dream about a mariachi band. Jack arranges horns for Johnny's standard "Ring of Fire" and plays the rhythm guitar part.
Cowboy has moved back to Nashville, gets an office in the old RCA building, revives his production and publishing company, Jack Music.
1965 The Pride of Country
Jack demoes two Charley Pride sides on his own dime and persuades Chet Atkins at RCA to sign him. Clement produces Charley's first single, "Snakes Crawl At Night", writes his first hit "Just Between You and Me", and manages him. Over the next ten years they combine for a string of gold albums; Pride is RCA's top selling artist. [Cowboy also produced Sheb Wooley, the Stonemans, Mac Wiseman, Tompall and the Glaser Brothers, Doc Watson, Louis Armstrong, Waylon Jennings, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, etc. See the Producer section]
Also in 1965
Marijohn Wilkin brings Kris Kristofferson, still in uniform and on the verge of a promising military career, to see Jack, and they take him out to a joint called The Professional Club run by Dottie Swan on 16th Avenue. While enjoying a few cocktails, Kristofferson insists Jack and Marijohn sing the Skeeter Davis/Bobby Bare hit "Too Used to Being with You" over and over. After hanging out with them that night, he chucks the US Army and moves to Nashville to work as a janitor and aspiring songwriter.
1968 For the Sake of the Song
Jack produces the first of a series of career-making albums for Townes Van Zandt. Also, hits an unlikely jackpot when Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison containing Cowboy's "Dirty Ol' Egg-Sucking Dog" and "Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart" spends 122 weeks on the pop charts.
1970 Everything is Beautiful
Jack finishes building the Jack Clement Recording Studios; one of the biggest selling records of the year is recorded there, Ray Stevens' "Everything is Beautiful". It is the first 16 track studio in Nashville (name changed to Sound Emporium in 1980, it is now owned by Jack's former engineer, Garth Fundis, producer of Tricia Yearwood, Keith Whitley and past acting President of N.A.R.A.S.)
1971 Everything is not so Beautiful
Cowboy then got into film production and produced the cult horror classic Dear Dead Delilah, which, to be charitable, "lost money."
1972 The Gentle Giant
Jack sets up JMI Records to record Don Williams. Experts say, "It's too laid back, it'll never work". All of Don's early chart successes are on this label, including his 1974 Top 5 success "We Should Be Together". To promote them, Cowboy Jack makes what has got to be one of the first-ever music videos.
1973 NSAI HOF
Jack is among the first inductees into the newly formed Nashville Songwriters Association International Songwriters Hall of Fame. Over the ensuing decades many of his protegés will follow.
1974 Diamonds to Dust
Jack had forgotten to sign a contract with Don and by 1974, Williams had signed with Dot.
1975 A Masterwork
Jack produces the landmark album Dreaming My Dreams featuring songs written Allen Reynolds and published by Jack. It is considered by many to be Waylon Jennings' finest work as well as his first Number One. Also included is Clement's "Let's All Help the Cowboys (Sing the Blues)".
1976 Pineapple Jack
Jack, combined forces with a local rock group Peace and Quiet, and that developed into the Cowboy's Ragtime Band. It has horns and plays everything from Dixieland to Rock'n'Roll.
Allen Reynolds buys Cowboy's old studio, known as Jack's Tracks. Out of that building comes a string of successful records from Crystal Gayle, Kathy Mattea, etc., culminating in the career of the top-selling solo artist of all time, Garth Brooks.
Jim Rooney comes to town, and, despite some impressive credits from the music scene in the Northeast, is living in his motorhome. Jack gives him free rein in his studio (in the '80s, Rooney goes on to produce Grammy-winning albums for Nanci Griffith and John Prine as well as Hal Ketchum, and Iris Dement)
1978 About time for a first album
Jack revives JMI and records "If I Had to Do it All Over Again", by Stoney Edwards. That year, Jack begins recording for Elektra Records and promptly enters the Country singles charts with "We Must Believe In Magic"/"When I Dream" and "All I Want To Do In Life", the latter being the title track of his Elektra album. Elektra picked up the option for a second album, but by the 1990's, the album had still not been delivered. "When I Dream"; was popular in Australia.
1982 Old Friends
He reunites with Cash to put out The Adventures of Johnny Cash and a few years later, Water from the Wells of Home which had Paul McCartney sharing production credits. Ex-Beatle challenges Jack as to who is the better dancer, but it has yet to be resolved.
1984 Cover Boy
Jack produces and plays rhythm guitar, dobro and ukulele on John Hartford's sublime Gumtree Canoe, on Flying Fish. The cover art features Cowboy, Mark Howard, and the late Roy Husky,Jr. in riverboat garb. Jack and Hartford play some memorable gigs.
A band that Jack had never heard of approaches him about going back to the original Sun Studio in Memphis to cut some sides. Fortunately, some of Jack's friends know who they are and convince him to give it a shot. The collaboration results in U2's Rattle and Hum.
1993 Polka Kings
Jack produces Charley Pride's new album on Branson Entertainment. This was in part a re-recording of Charley's hits. Jack, a long-time polka-lover, produces Frank Yankovic's "Live from Nashville" album and plays "Barroom Polka" with Frank on his Grammy-nominated FRIENDS VOL. I.
1994 Tell it to the Marines
One of Jack's many fans, Zell Miller, who became Governor of Georgia in 1991, has him do a number of command performances in Atlanta. A song they write later appears on Jack's second album.
1998 Going Downtown
By the end of the '90s, Jack is helping with the migration of the Country Music Hall of Fame to its new location and designs an innovative stage set for their Ford Theater.
2000 The Next Generation
The new millenium finds Jack working as a trio with Billy Burnette, of the rockabilly Burnette clan, and Shawn Camp, multi-instrumentalist, hit songwriter, and Oh Boy recording artist.
2002 The Patriarch
Jack becomes Artist-in-Residence at the Hall of Fame, and the band does a series of sold-out shows there.
2003 Walk The Line
Works with his long time engineer, David 'Ferg' Ferguson and T-Bone Burnett on the soundtrack for the Johnny Cash/June Carter Cash Story, now a major motion picture (starring local girl Reese Witherspoon and coming November 18, 2005 to a theater near you) I Walk The Line
2004 A Lifetime of Mischieveous Achievement
Jack H. Clement is presented the Lifetime Achievement Award for his songwriting by the Americana Music Association
2004 Wait Wait ... he's still got something to say!
Guess Things Happen That Way is released on Dualtone Records, and the debut single hits the Americana Music Association charts. It is only his second album as an artist. He puts one out every 25 years or so, whether he needs to or not. Two of the critics from CMT.com name it to their Best Albums of 2004 lists
2005 The Cowboy and The Plowboy
Legendary Eddy Arnold gets a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, and Jack puts the finishing touches on his new record.
2005 Shakespeare Was A Big George Jones Fan
Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville premiere an imaginative documentary film about Jack's life and times featuring many of his famous friends as well as exclusive home movie footage from the Cowboy Arms archives. It is selected for showing at the Nashville and Tribeca Film Festivals. He also goes to England to show it and play as part of the Sun Records Revival tour.
2005 From Sun to the Stars
Jack prepares a regular show for Sirius Satellite Radio's Outlaw Country channel (a genre he helped create) and ... (ta - da)
2005 - to present
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