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Guy Clark

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Guy Clark
Clark at the 2009 Newport Folk Festival
Clark at the 2009 Newport Folk Festival
Background information
Birth nameGuy Charles Clark
Born(1941-11-06)November 6, 1941
Monahans, Texas, U.S.
DiedMay 17, 2016(2016-05-17) (aged 74)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter, producer
Instrument(s)Guitar, vocals
Years active1970s–2016
LabelsRCA, Warner, Sugar Hill, Elektra, Dualtone

Guy Charles Clark (November 6, 1941 – May 17, 2016)[1] was an American folk and country singer-songwriter and luthier.[2][3] He released more than 20 albums, and his songs have been recorded by other artists, including Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, Kathy Mattea, Lyle Lovett, Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Nanci Griffith and Chris Stapleton. He won the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Folk Album: My Favorite Picture of You.



Clark was born in Monahans, Texas. His family moved to Rockport, Texas in 1954. After he graduated from high school in 1960, he spent almost a decade living in Houston as part of the folk music revival in that city. His wife Susanna Talley Clark and he eventually settled in Nashville, where he helped create the Americana genre. His songs "L.A. Freeway" and "Desperados Waiting for a Train" helped launch his career and were covered by numerous performers, including Steve Earle, Jerry Jeff Walker, Nanci Griffith, and Brian Joens. The New York Times described him in its obituary as "a king of the Texas troubadours", declaring his body of work "as indelible as that of anyone working in the Americana idiom in the last decades of the 20th century".[4]

Clark had been a mentor to such other singers as Noel McKay, Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell. He organized Earle's first job as a writer in Nashville. In the 1970s, the Clarks' home in Nashville was an open house for songwriters and musicians,[5] and it features in the film Heartworn Highways, an evocation of the songwriter scene in Nashville at that time.[6]

Numerous artists have charted with Clark-penned tunes. "The Last Gunfighter Ballad" was the title song of Johnny Cash's 1977 studio album. In 1982, Bobby Bare made it to the Country Top 20 with Clark's "New Cut Road". That same year, bluegrass leader Ricky Skaggs hit number one with Clark's "Heartbroke", a song that permanently established his reputation as an ingenious songwriter. Among the many others who have covered Clark's songs are Vince Gill, who took "Oklahoma Borderline" to the Top 10 in 1985; The Highwaymen, who introduced "Desperados Waiting for a Train" to a new generation that same year; John Conlee, whose interpretation of "The Carpenter" rode into the Top 10 in 1987; and John Denver, who recorded Clark's "Homegrown Tomatoes" in 1988. Clark is frequently referred to as the Fifth Highwayman.[7]

Steve Wariner took his cover of Clark's "Baby I'm Yours" to number one in 1988; Asleep at the Wheel charted with Clark's "Blowin' Like a Bandit" the same year. Crowell was Clark's co-writer on "She's Crazy for Leavin'", which in 1989 became the third of five straight number-one hits for Crowell. Brad Paisley and Alan Jackson covered Clark's "Out in the Parkin' Lot", co-written with Darrell Scott, on Paisley's Time Well Wasted CD. Jimmy Buffett, obviously influenced by Jerry Jeff Walker's earlier quality cover of "Boats to Build" on 1997's "Cowboy Boots & Bathin Suits", then covered Clark's "Boats to Build" and "Cinco de Mayo in Memphis".[8] Clark credits Townes Van Zandt as being a major influence on his songwriting. One of the most famous photos in country music history was taken on Clark's porch in 1972 of Clark, wife Susanna, Van Zandt, and Daniel Antopolsky by photographer Al Clayton. Clark and Van Zandt were best friends for many years until Van Zandt's death in 1997,[8] and Clark has included a Van Zandt composition on most of his albums. In 1995, he recorded a live album with Van Zandt and Steve Earle, Together at the Bluebird Cafe, which was released in October 2001. Other live material can be found on his album Keepers. Earle released the tribute album Guy in 2019.

In 2006, Clark released Workbench Songs. The album was nominated for Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album at the Grammy Awards. He also toured with Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely, and John Hiatt in 2004, 2005, and 2007. In May 2008, Clark canceled four concerts after breaking his leg.[9] After two months on crutches, he began to perform again on July 4 at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC, where he appeared with Verlon Thompson. On June 20, 2009, Clark announced a new album titled Somedays the Song Writes You, which was released on September 22, 2009. It features originals along with a Townes Van Zandt song titled "If I Needed You".

In December 2011, This One's for Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark (a two-CD set) was released by Icehouse Music and produced by longtime fan Tamara Saviano.[10][11] The CD won Americana Album of the Year at the 2012 Americana Music Honors & Awards.[12] Clark won the Grammy Award for Best Folk Album in 2014 for My Favorite Picture of You.[13]

The final song that Clark completed was co-written with Angaleena Presley and titled "Cheer Up Little Darling". It appeared on Presley's 2017 album Wrangled.[14]

Texas country singer/songwriter Aaron Watson paid tribute to Clark in his song entitled "Ghost of Guy Clark", released in June 2019. In the song, Clark's ghost asks the protagonist to perform a song and is unimpressed; he then encourages the performer to write songs with greater passion.[15]

Personal life


Clark had one son, Travis Carroll Clark (December 18, 1966 - October 12, 2017 aortic aneurysm),[16] from his first marriage to folksinger Susan Spaw.[17] He was married to songwriter and artist Susanna Clark from 1972 until her death from cancer on June 27, 2012.[5]

On May 17, 2016, Clark died in Nashville following a lengthy battle with lymphoma at the age of 74.[18][19]



Studio albums

Year Album Peak chart positions Label
US Country US US Heat US Indie US Folk
1975 Old No. 1 41 RCA
1976 Texas Cookin' 48
1978 Guy Clark Warner
1981 The South Coast of Texas
1983 Better Days 48
1988 Old Friends Sugar Hill
1992 Boats to Build Asylum
1995 Dublin Blues
1999 Cold Dog Soup Sugar Hill
2002 The Dark 46
2006 Workbench Songs 74 36 Dualtone
2009 Somedays the Song Writes You 59 13 39
2013 My Favorite Picture of You 12 62 14 5

Compilations and live albums

Year Album Label
1979 On The Road Live [live, promo] Warner
1982 Best of Guy Clark RCA
1983 Guy Clark – Greatest Hits RCA
1995 Craftsman Rounder/Philo
1997 Keepers [live] Sugar Hill
The Essential Guy Clark RCA
2001 Together at the Bluebird Cafe [live]
(with Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle)
American Originals
2007 Americana Master Series:
Best of the Sugar Hill Years
Sugar Hill
Live from Austin, TX New West
Hindsight 21-20: Anthology 1975-1995 Raven
2008 The Platinum Collection Warner
2011 Songs and Stories Dualtone
2017 Guy Clark: The Best of Dualtone Years[20] Dualtone


Year Single US Country Album
1979 "Fools for Each Other" 96 Guy Clark
1981 "The Partner Nobody Chose" 38 The South Coast of Texas
1983 "Homegrown Tomatoes" 42 Better Days




  1. ^ Sweeting, Adam (May 19, 2016). "Guy Clark obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  2. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 184–5. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  3. ^ Freeman, Doug (July 19, 2013). "We Were From Texas: Guy Clark and the high price of inspiration". The Austin Chronicle. Austin, Texas. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  4. ^ Friskics-Warren, Bill (May 17, 2016). "Guy Clark, a King of the Texas Troubadours, Is Dead at 74". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Hurt, Edd (July 5, 2012). "Susanna Clark, artist, hit songwriter and wife of Guy Clark, dies at 73". Nashville Scene. Archived from the original on October 3, 2012. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  6. ^ Moss, Marissa (April 22, 2015). "Classic 'Heartworn Highways' Documentary Gets Sequel 39 Years Later". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 22, 2016.
  7. ^ Morgan, Ike (May 18, 2016). "Guy Clark songs you should know: 5 performed by him, 7 by others". al.com. Retrieved January 24, 2024.
  8. ^ a b Remz, Jeffery (June 1997). Clark finds a set of Keepers. Country Standard Time. Accessed January 8, 2009.
  9. ^ "Home: Guy Clark Master Songwriter". Guyclark.com. December 13, 2011. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  10. ^ "Coming Soon – This One's For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark". Icehouse Music. August 17, 2011. Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved August 6, 2013.
  11. ^ "Tamara Saviano finds niche producing tribute albums". The Tennessean. July 17, 2014. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
  12. ^ "'This One's For Him: A Tribute To Guy Clark' Wins Americana Album of the Year". Urban Country News. September 15, 2012. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  13. ^ "Guy Clark Wins "Best Folk Album" Grammy At 72 | Heartworn Highways Revisited". heartwornhighways.com. Retrieved September 26, 2018.
  14. ^ "Angaleena Presley's New Album to Feature Miranda Lambert Song". rollingstone.com. February 17, 2017. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  15. ^ "How a Mainstream Hit Led Aaron Watson to Make His Most Audacious Album Yet". Rolling Stone. June 22, 2019.
  16. ^ "Travis Carroll Clark - View Obituary & Service Information".
  17. ^ "Guy Clark, Grammy-winning musician, dead at 74". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press. May 17, 2016. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  18. ^ Cooper, Peter (May 17, 2016). "Guy Clark dead at 74". The Tennessean. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  19. ^ Villalpando, Roberto (May 17, 2016). "Legendary Texas songwriter Guy Clark, 74, dies". Austin American-Statesman. Archived from the original on May 19, 2016. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  20. ^ "Guy Clark: The Best of the Dualtone Years". Amazon. 2017.

Further reading


Preceded by AMA Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting
Succeeded by