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Passings: Country Music Hall of Fame Member Cowboy Jack Clement (1931 - 2013)

Cowboy Jack Clement, who was named to the Country Music Hall of Fame in April, died Thursday in his home in Nashville after a lengthy illness. He was 82.

Over the years, Clement wore the hats of record producer, singer, songwriter, film producer, studio engineer and dance instructor. His recording career stretched for 60 years, he discovered Jerry Lee Lewis, he wrote Ballad of a Teenage Queen and Guess Things Happen That Way for Johnny Cash and he produced such hits as Ring of Fire.

After serving in the military, Clement returned to his home in Memphis to attend Memphis State University. During his time there (1953 to 1955), he played steel guitar with a local band and recorded some of his material on the side. He also started his first record company, Fernwood Records, with friend Slim Wallace and recorded sides with rockabilly artist Billy Lee Riley

In 1956, those sides got both he and Riley signed with Sun Records where he produced and engineered for Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich, Carl Perkins and the rest of the Sun family. It was while Sun owner Sam Phillips was away that Jack brought in a young Jerry Lee Lewis and had him record a few sides, including his classic Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On. Clement was also the man who rolled tape on the session with Lewis, Perkins, Cash and Elvis Presley now known as the Million Dollar Quartet.

Phillips fired Clement in 1959 so he opened Jack Music in Memphis along with a new label, Summer Records. Nothing came of the new label, but he managed to score a major hit on his old Fernwood Records in 1961 with Thomas Wayne's Tragedy.

During the time, Clement was also commuting to Nashville to work with Chet Atkins at RCA where he produces a number of artists and writes the hit I Know One for Jim Reeves. By 1961, he had move on again to Beaumont, Texas where he started Hall-Clement Music and produced Patches for Dickey Lee. He also pitched the song She Thinks I Still Care, written by Lee, to Baumont native George Jones, giving him one of the biggest hits of his career.

Clement's resume kept growing over the rest of the decade, producing the Johnny Cash hit Ring of Fire and his classic At Folsom Prison, discovering Charley Pride and getting him signed to RCA Records, pushing Kris Kristofferson to move to Nashville to become a songwriter and making two albums with Townes Van Zandt.

In 1970, Jack opened Jack Clement Recording Studio in Nashville, the first 16-track facility in the city and christened it by recording Ray Stevens' classic Everything is Beautiful. Also new was JMI Records which he started to record a young Don Williams. Unfortunately for Clement, he and Williams never signed a contract and Dot Records stole the singer away a couple of years later.

1973 brought Jack's induction into the Country Songwriter's Hall of Fame, one of the first artists to go in but it was in 1978 that Clement finally became a recording artists in his own right. Even though he had recorded sides as far back as 1953, it was the album All I Want to Do in Life, released by Elektra Records, that brought him out from behind the board and desk. It would be 2004 before he would release his second album, Guess Things Happen That Way.

Since the 70's, Clement has stayed very active in the Nashville music scene, producing for a variety of artists, including three tracks on U2's Rattle and Hum, along with building a state of the art recording studio in his home. That studio, part of Jack's home, and much valuable memorabilia and recordings burned in a fire in 2011.

Clement is survived by his daughter, Alison, and son, Niles.



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