Wednesday, August 22

J J Cale and Eric Clapton: After Midnight

J.J. Cale (born John W. Cale on December 5, 1938, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) is an American songwriter and musician best known for writing two songs that Eric Clapton made famous, "After Midnight" and "Cocaine", as well as the Lynyrd Skynyrd hit "Call Me The Breeze". Some sources incorrectly give his real name as "Jean Jacques Cale". According to keyboard player, Rocky Frisco, "The 'Jean Jaques' was created by a drunk French 'journalist' who got thrown out of the venue and made it up to pretend he had done an interview". In fact, a Sunset Strip nightclub owner employing Cale in the mid-1960's came up with the "J.J" moniker to avoid confusion with the Velvet Underground's John Cale.[1]

Cale is one of the originators of the Tulsa Sound, a very loose genre drawing on blues, rockabilly, country, and jazz influences. Cale's personal style has often been described as "laid back", and is characterized by shuffle rhythms, simple chord changes, understated vocals, and clever, incisive lyrics. Cale is also a very distinctive and idiosyncratic guitarist, incorporating both Travis-like fingerpicking and gentle, meandering electric solos. His recordings also reflect his stripped-down, laid-back ethos; his album versions are usually quite succinct and often recorded entirely by Cale alone, using drum machines for rhythm accompaniment. Live, however, as evidenced on his 2001 Live album and 2006 To Tulsa And Back film, he and his band regularly stretch the songs out and improvise heavily.

Many artists, including Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Neil Young and Bryan Ferry, have noted Cale's influence on their music; several artists in addition to Clapton have made hits of Cale songs, and many more have covered them. Cale has often noted that he writes and records songs primarily so that other artists will cover them, but given the texturally spare but fine craftsmanship on his albums, this sentiment is far from universal. His most covered songs include "Call Me the Breeze", "Sensitive Kind", "After Midnight", and "Cocaine".

Cale is also well known for his longstanding aversion to stardom, extensive touring, and even continual recording. He has happily remained a relatively obscure cult artist for the last 35 years.

The release of his album, To Tulsa and Back in 2004, his appearance at Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival, and the 2006 release of the film documentary, To Tulsa and Back: On Tour with J. J. Cale, have brought his understated discography and songwriting to a new audience. This mainstream exposure continued into late 2006 with the release of a collaborative album with Eric Clapton, The Road to Escondido.