Governor Clay

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Governor Clay
Background information
Birth nameKarl Caulkins Bruder
Born (1945-07-07) July 7, 1945 (age 76)
OriginTuscaloosa, Alabama
GenresFolk music
Occupation(s)Songwriter, performer
Years active1967 - present

Governor Clay (born Karl Caulkins Bruder) is an American songwriter and performer. He began his career in San Francisco in 1967. He appears regularly in southern Europe and New York City. Although he works in the cowboy ballad tradition, he has collaborated with artists including the poet James Koller, saxophonist Steve Lacy, and contemporary composer Peter Garland. His albums are conceived as chapters in an ongoing historical novel. He has been published in books and journals on both sides of the Atlantic. Governor Clay currently lives in the Burgundy region of France.

Life and career[edit]

Governor Clay was born on 7 July 1945, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. His mother came from a long line of Southerners whose origins were Irish, while his father was the son of immigrants from Budapest, Hungary. The family settled in Kansas when he was five years old. He appeared in plays that his father staged, and his mother taught him to play the piano. In 1965 he worked for a month laying pipes in Fort Worth, Texas, and then moved on to California.

Governor Clay stayed five years in San Francisco. He set out to become a songwriter and learned his craft at the Fillmore Auditorium, in various ‘painted lady’ houses, and in Golden Gate Park. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, among many others, had a profound effect on him. He also encountered the poet James Koller, and the anarchist Samuel Quick Spencer. In 1970 he moved to Denver and spent a year working on a small stage at the Columbia Tavern, where the clientele favored country western music. It was during this time that Governor Clay began to perform his own songs. He went to Paris, France, in 1972, invited to join Bruce Barthol's band. Nothing came of the project, but he did make his first recordings, working after hours at a studio in Pigalle. Governor Clay travelled back and forth between Europe and America for the next twenty years, doing his show in festivals and theaters. He finally settled in France, and began working with American singers who were touring in Europe, such as Wanda Jackson, Doug Kershaw and Mike Greene. He met Steve Lacy onstage in Switzerland, and they performed together in Sardinia. He often travels with James Koller,[1] bringing their show, which combines folk music and poems, to audiences in Italy and France. Governor Clay's songs have been published in poetry magazines on both sides of the Atlantic.



  • 1973: Blessings in Disguise (Studio Pigalle EP #1789)
  • 1980: On The Beach (Northern Star LP #104087, re-issue CD EPM1, 2012)
  • 1991: The Cottonmouth (ESS Limited Edition EP #101)
  • 2006: The Avalon Songbook (Druid City CD, DCM 0106)
  • 2012: Bourbon Jane (Equinox CD, Limited Edition)


  • 1998: Ancestors at the Door (Cactus CD, CMD 14098)
  • 2006: Spotlight Blues (Giona CD, GB 127)

With James Koller[edit]

  • 1989: Live at the Charleston (Leslie CD, LB 0189)
  • 2004: Black Corn Blues (La Forge CD, JKB 036)
  • 2000: Crows Talk To Him (Giona CD, GB 099)

With Mike Greene[edit]

  • 1997: Southern Wind (Cactus CD, CMD 13897)
  • 2001: A Talking Tree, Souls in the Rain (Cactus CD, CMD 17401)

With J. Kirby[edit]

  • 2002: Highway to Your Heart (Round Stake CD, RSTK 2303)


  • 1999: Westwind (Western CD, WM 01)
  • 1996: Musiques en Court (Anim's CD, Limited Edition)


  1. ^ On Koller and Governor Clay, cf. Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Vol. 5, Gale Research, 1987, pp. 157-172