Outside those who are in the know and are clearly fans of this songwriting genius, most folks couldn’t tell you who J.J. Cale was. Known as the main architcetct of the Tulsa Sound, this singer-songwriter/producer had written some of the most recognizable songs in rock history. While his best known songs remain in heavy rotation on the radio nearly 40 years later, most folks wouldn’t be able to name Cale as their author. That was a role he had no problem with. ‘No, it doesn’t bother me,’ Cale said with a laugh in an interview posted on his website. ‘What’s really nice is when you get a check in the mail.’
Monster hits like Breeze performed by Lynryd Skynyrd, and After Midnight by Eric Clapton are just a few that still ring loud on the radio. The list of artists who covered his music or cite him as a direct influence reads like a who’s who of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Clapton, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Mark Knopfler, The Allman Brothers, Carlos Santana, Captain Beefheart and Bryan Ferry among many others. Seeing Cale live was like watching a crazy-ass good cover band of some of the greatest songs ever written, only to shake your head when you realize that no, he isn’t covering those songs, they are ALL his.
The strongest relationship was between Cale and Clapton. Clapton described Cale’s music as ‘a strange hybrid. It’s not really blues, it’s not really folk or country or rock `n’ roll. It’s somewhere in the middle.’ This magic intrigued Clapton, leaving him wanting more. They would work together on many projects together before Cale’s death in 2013. Clapton was also quoted as saying, ‘As hard as I’ve tried, I’ve never really succeeded in getting a record to sound like him, and that’s what I want.’ J.J. Cale is a true Americana icon, and a legend in the world of rock and roll. Go get some!