JJ Cale

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Not to be confused with Welsh musician John Cale of the Velvet Underground.
J.J. Cale
J.J. CALE.jpg
Background information
Birth name John Weldon Cale
Born (1938-12-05)December 5, 1938
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.
Died July 26, 2013(2013-07-26) (aged 74)
La Jolla, California, U.S.
Genres Americana, Cajun, blues, swamp rock, country-rock, Red Dirt, Tulsa Sound
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, vocals, piano, keyboards, bass, drums
Years active 1958–2013
Labels Shelter, Mercury, Polygram, Virgin, Rounder, Silvertone
Associated acts Leathercoated Minds, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell
Website jjcale.com

John Weldon Cale [1] (December 5, 1938 – July 26, 2013), professionally known as J.J. Cale, was an American singer-songwriter, recording artist and influential guitar stylist. Though he deliberately avoided the limelight (being temperamentally averse to celebrity)[2] his influence as a musical artist has been widely acknowledged by figures as diverse as Mark Knopfler, Neil Young and Eric Clapton who described him as “one of the most important artists in the history of rock”.[3] He is considered to be one of the originators of the Tulsa Sound, a loose genre drawing on blues, rockabilly, country, and jazz influences.

Many songs written by Cale have been recorded by other artists including "Magnolia" by Beck; "I Got The Same Old Blues" by Captain Beefheart, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Freddie King; "After Midnight" and "Cocaine" by Eric Clapton, Phish and Jerry Garcia; "Clyde" by Waylon Jennings and Dr. Hook, and "Call Me the Breeze" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Mayer, Johnny Cash and Bobby Bare.

In 2008 he, along with Clapton, received a Grammy Award for The Road to Escondido.

Life and career[edit]

John Cale was born on December 5, 1938, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.[1] He was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and graduated from Tulsa Central High School in 1956. As well as learning to play the guitar he began studying the principles of sound engineering early on while still living at home with his parents in Tulsa where he built himself a recording studio.[4] After graduation he was drafted into military service studying at the Air Force Institute of Technology in Champaign, Illinois. Cale recalled, "I didn't really want to carry a gun and do all that stuff so I joined the Air Force and what I did is I took technical training and that's kind of where I learned a little bit about electronics." [5] Cale's knowledge of mixing and sound recording turned out to play an important role in creating the distinctive sound of his studio albums.[6]

Along with a number of other young Tulsa musicians, Cale moved to Los Angeles in the early 1960s, where he found employment as a studio engineer.[7] While living in Los Angeles he cut a demo single in 1966 (in those days professional demos were actual 45 rpm vinyl singles) with Liberty Records of his composition 'After Midnight'. He distributed copies of this single to his Tulsa musician friends living in L.A. many of whom were successfully finding work as session musicians. However, Cale, although he managed to find a regular spot at the Whisky a Go Go (which is where, according to his own testimony, Elmer Valentine suggested he call himself J.J. Cale to avoid confusion with John Cale of the Velvet Underground [8] [9]) found little success as a recording artist and not being able to make enough money as a studio engineer, sold his guitar and returned to Tulsa where he joined a band with Tulsa musician Don White.

In 1970 it came to his attention that Eric Clapton had recorded a cover of "After Midnight" on his debut album in 1970. As a result of this coup it was suggested to Cale that he should take advantage of this publicity and cut a record of his own. His first album, Naturally, established his style, described by Los Angeles Times writer Richard Cromelin as a "unique hybrid of blues, folk and jazz, marked by relaxed grooves and Cale's fluid guitar and laconic vocals. His early use of drum machines and his unconventional mixes lend a distinctive and timeless quality to his work and set him apart from the pack of Americana roots music purists."[10]

In his 2003 biography Shakey, Neil Young remarked that "Of all the players I ever heard, it's gotta be [Jimi] Hendrix and JJ Cale who are the best electric guitar players"[11] In the 2005 documentary To Tulsa and Back: On Tour with J.J. Cale, Cale's guitar style is characterized by Eric Clapton as "...really, really minimal..." and he states precisely: "...it's all about finesse".

His biggest U.S. hit single, "Crazy Mama", peaked at #22 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1972. In the 2005 documentary film To Tulsa and Back Cale recounts the story of being offered the opportunity to appear on Dick Clark's American Bandstand to promote the song, which would have moved it higher on the charts. Cale declined when told he could not bring his band to the taping and would be required to lip-sync the words.[12]

Cale often acted as his own producer, engineer and session player. His vocals, sometimes whispery, would be buried in the mix. He attributed his unique sound to being a recording mixer and engineer, saying; "Because of all the technology now you can make music yourself and a lot of people are doing that now. I started out doing that a long time ago and I found when I did that I came up with a unique sound."[13]

In live performances, Cale played with minimal stage lighting.

His catalogue is published for the World excluding North America by independent music publishers Fairwood Music (UK) Ltd.

Cale died of heart failure in July 2013, at the age of 74, in La Jolla, California.[14][15][16]


Songs written by Cale that have been covered by other musicians include "After Midnight" and "Cocaine" by Eric Clapton ("Cocaine" also was covered by Nazareth), "Call Me The Breeze" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnny Cash, and Eric Clapton, "Clyde" by Waylon Jennings and Dr. Hook, "I Got the Same Old Blues" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Ride Me High" and "Travelin' Light" by Widespread Panic, "Bringing It Back" by Kansas, and "Magnolia" by Poco.

In 1974 Captain Beefheart covered the song "Same Old Blues" on his album Bluejeans & Moonbeams.

Santana covered "The Sensitive Kind" on their 1981 album Zebop!

The 1992 track "Run" on Spiritualized's debut album, Lazer Guided Melodies, is essentially a cover of Cale's "Call Me the Breeze" with some additional lyrics. Cale is given songwriting credit on the album.

The Band covered "Crazy Mama" on their 1996 album High on the Hog.

George Thorogood & The Destroyers covered "Devil In Disguise" on their 2003 album Ride 'Til I Die.

As well as "After Midnight" on his self-titled debut album in 1970 and "Cocaine" on Slowhand in 1977, Eric Clapton has covered Cale's "I'll Make Love To You Anytime" on his 1978 album Backless. Other Clapton covers of Cale originals include "Travelin' Light" on his 2001 album Reptile, "River Runs Deep" and "Everything Will Be Alright" on his 2010 self-titled album Clapton, and "Angel" on his 2013 album Old Sock.

In 2014 Eric Clapton & Friends released the tribute album The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale. Here Cale's tunes are covered by Clapton with Tom Petty, Mark Knopfler, John Mayer, Don White, Willie Nelson, Christine Lakeland and others. In the video version of Call Me The Breeze for this album, Clapton declares of Cale, "He was a fantastic musician. And he was my hero."[17]




  • 1958 "Shock Hop"/"Sneaky" (as Johnny Cale)[19]
  • 1960 "Troubles, Troubles"/"Purple Onion" (as Johnny Cale Quintet)[19]
  • 1961 "Ain't That Lovin You Baby"/"She's My Desire" (as Johnny Cale Quintet)[19]
  • 1965 "It's A Go Go Place"/"Dick Tracy", Liberty 55840
  • 1966 "In Our Time"/"Outside Looking In", Liberty 55881
  • 1966 "After Midnight"/"Slow Motion", Liberty 55931
  • 1971 "Crazy Mama", Shelter 7314 (from the album Naturally, peaked at #22 on the US single charts on April 8, 1972, and #21 in Canada on April 15)
  • 1972 "Lies"/"Riding Home", Shelter 7326
  • 1979 "Katy Kool Lady"/"Juarez Blues", Shelter WIP 6521

Studio albums[edit]

Live album[edit]

  • 2001 Live

Collaborative album[edit]

Albums featuring JJ Cale[edit]

  • 2006 "Uncovered" - Tony Joe White - Cale plays guitar on his song 'Louvelda'


  • 1984 Special Edition (a compilation of hits from previous albums)
  • 1997 Anyway the Wind Blows: The Anthology
  • 1998 The Very Best of J.J. Cale
  • 2000 Universal Masters Collection
  • 2003 After Midnight (German release)
  • 2006 The Definitive Collection
  • 2006 Collected (with bonus tracks, Dutch release only)
  • 2007 Rewind: The Unreleased Recordings
  • 2011 The Silvertone Years (a collection chronicling Cale's music released by Silvertone 1989–1992)


  • 1979 In Session At The Paradise Studios - Los Angeles, J.J.Cale featuring Leon Russell
  • 2004 Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festval Cale with band from 2004 US tour (below) play a set with Clapton.
  • 2005 on tour with J J Cale - to Tulsa and back 2005 documentary filmed during a 2004 US tour with Cale, Christine Lakeland, Jimmy Karstein, Bill Raffensperger, Rocky Frisco


  1. ^ a b "Bio". JJ Cale official website. Retrieved 9 March 2011. 
  2. ^ "I was always a background person...it took me a while to adjust to the fact that people were looking at me....'cause I always just wanted to be part of the show, I didn't want to be the show." To Tulsa and Back: On Tour with J.J. Cale (2005)
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ To Tulsa and Back: On Tour with J.J. Cale, 2005
  5. ^ Ibid
  6. ^ Long time collaborator drummer Jim Karstein remarked, 'You'll cut tracks with him and you'll listen to it and you'll think, "Well, I don't know about that one" and then he'll take the tapes away and he puts his secret sauce on 'em, you know, that nobody but he knows what it is that he does in the dark of night and then he'll come back out and you'll go "Wow!". Ibid
  7. ^ Hoekstra, Dave (15 April 1990). "Songwriter J. J. Cale prefers to remain in the background". Chicago Sun-Times.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  8. ^ To Tulsa and Back: On Tour with J.J. Cale, 2005
  9. ^ Rocky Frisco tells the same version of the story mentioning the other John Cale but without further detail."Obituary: JJ Cale was music’s towering figure". whereseric.com. July 28, 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  10. ^ Cromelin, Richard (24 February 2009). "J.J. Cale rolls on". Los Angeles Times. 
  11. ^ McDonough, Jimmy (2013). Shakey: Neil Young's Biography. ISBN 9781446414545. 
  12. ^ "J. J. Cale Biograph". Sing 365.com. Retrieved 2013-01-06. 
  13. ^ "Obituary: JJ Cale was music’s towering figure". gulfnews.com. July 28, 2013. Retrieved August 11, 2013. 
  14. ^ "JJ Cale passed away at 8:00 pm on Friday July 26 at Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, CA.". JJ Cale official website. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  15. ^ Castillo, Mariano (27 July 2013). "Writer of hits JJ Cale dead at 74". CNN.com. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  16. ^ "Cale's agent confirms his death". The Rosebud Agency. 
  17. ^ Call Me The Breeze 2014 video. Clapton's declaration is at 2'44"
  18. ^ "Music". JJ Cale official website. Retrieved 9 March 2011. 
  19. ^ a b c Cale, Johnny at the Wayback Machine (archived April 26, 2007). law.emory.edu

External links[edit]