Yet another icon of country music has passed away. “Cowboy” Jack Clement, known and respected throughout the music industry for his work as a songwriter and producer, died in his Nashville home on Thursday after a long battle with liver cancer. He was 82.
Clement’s nickname was an anomaly, to say the least, since he preferred Hawaiian shirts and never liked horses. He started being called “Cowboy” from his role in an old radio skit, and the nickname stuck all his life.
This paradox was just one among many for a man who was widely associated with country music, but never restricted by it. While known for such antics as dancing around the recording studio in a bathrobe, in fact, Clement was a mover, shaker, and landscape changer in the music industry in general–whether it was working as a producer/engineer at Sun Records during the birth of rock & roll, writing hit songs like “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” for his friend Johnny Cash, or helping to break the race barrier in country music by launching the career of Charley Pride. “Cowboy” Jack was not a star, but he was by all accounts an influencer, affecting the careers of everyone from Kris Kristofferson to Waylon Jennings to Roy Orbison to U2. He was particularly known for picking out potential music icons and helping to launch their careers.
Clement continued to work until shortly before his death. He recently produced an album for Irish singer Cathy Maguire, which is due out next year. He is scheduled to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on October 27. He will be greatly missed.