Interview Archive page: published 2006

Cowboy Jack Clement

Legendary record producer video feature

Jack sadly passed away in August 2013

This is truly one of the most interesting and unique video features that we've ever had the pleasure to record and we hope that you enjoy the three videos covering Cowboy Jack Clement's career as much as we have enjoyed putting them together. The music industry wouldn't have been the same without him and he will be greatly missed.

Cowboy Jack Clement - record producer, recording engineer, recording studio pioneer

Picture by Niles Clement of Cowboy Jack Clement (l) and Johnny Jaskot (r)

Cowboy Jack Clement videos are in three parts




If Cowboy Jack Clement had decided to retire from the music business in 1957, his place in the history of rock 'n' roll would have been secure. While recording the first songs by Jerry Lee Lewis, he suggested that the musicians take a break from the country-oriented material they were working on. So, for fun, they loosened up by jamming on some stuff they had been doing in their "live" shows. The levels were set, and as the band launched into "Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On", Jack hit the red button, mixing it on the fly. One take. Blam. They didn't even listen back until after they had finished the rest of the session. In a matter of weeks that raw sound was blasting out of car radios and black-and-white TVs toward the top of the charts, inspiring countless budding musicians from John Lennon to Bruce Springsteen on down.

Of course, Cowboy Jack Clement was just getting started. Never one to quit while ahead, he went on to play a pivotal role in the careers of some of the brightest stars of country, folk, and rock music. And,guess what - he ain't finished yet ...


Jack Clement's career in American popular music is unparalleled - from the signature horn riff of "Ring of Fire" to the wild abandon of the Killer doing "Great Balls of Fire", from Satchmo to Bono, from working with Pop Stoneman, whose first recordings were on Edison cylinders, to deejaying a show on satellite radio. That pretty much covers it.

Any one of the roles detailed below would have been a noteworthy career by itself. Oh, and he also founded a couple record companies, Fernwood, a garage in Memphis where the 1959 hit "Tragedy" was recorded, and JMI, Jack's early '70s label that launched the career of Don Williams.

Jack Clement has scored major musical success as a songwriter, producer, recording studio pioneer, publisher, artist and executive. He was born April 5, 1931, in Whitehaven, Tenn., near Memphis and enlisted in the Marines as a teenager. After four years of service, he toured in a bluegrass band, then returned to Memphis in 1954. He found work at Sun Records and worked at the mixing board for recording sessions with Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich and Jerry Lee Lewis.Another Sun artist, Elvis Presley, even opened for Clement at the Memphis club The Eagle's Nest. In those years, he wrote two of Cash's most enduring songs, "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" and "Guess Things Happen That Way."

After being fired by Sam Phillips at Sun, he moved to Nashville to work for Chet Atkins, then relocated to Beaumont, Texas. There, he met George Jones and convinced him to cut the song, "She Thinks I Still Care." In 1965, Clement returned to Nashville and financed a demo by then-unknown Charley Pride and persuaded Atkins to sign him to RCA. Clement also wrote Pride's first two hits, "Just Between You and Me" and "I Know One," and produced Pride's first 13 albums for the label.

Clement launched the solo career of Don Williams through his JMI record label, a project that also introduced Allen Reynolds as a record producer. Reynolds later produced Garth Brooks, Crystal Gayle, Emmylou Harris, Bobby Bare and Kathy Mattea. In addition, Clement was Townes Van Zandt's first publisher, and Bob McDill also wrote for Clement's publishing company. Clement released his own album, All I Want to Do in Life in 1978.Beyond country music, Clement produced three tracks for U2's Rattle and Hum sessions in Memphis and also produced an album for Louis Armstrong.

In other ventures, he built four of Nashville's leading studios, produced a cult classic horror film and made perhaps the world's first music video on Don Williams in 1972, nine years before MTV launched.

Clement now operates out of his spacious Nashville home with a fully equipped studio upstairs, a pool in the side yard, hammock out back and all the rooms wired for filming. Inside he juggles the sessions he's producing on Eddy Arnold, soundtrack work with T Bone Burnett for the new Johnny Cash film, Walk the Line, the Robert Gordon-led film crew documenting his life, reading selections from his work-in-progress autobiography and training Eugene, "the world's smartest cat."

Cowboy Jack Clement

Special thanks to Cowboy Jack for giving us so much time and Jack Hale for helping make this feature possible. Special thanks to Johnny Jaskot of for his amazing interview and direction.

Visit Cowboy Jack Clement's fantastic website here.