Perhaps the easiest way to measure the impact of a legacy is by the first-hand testimony from friends and family influenced by it. This recognition saluted Cowboy Jack Clement last night (Jan. 30) at Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium. An impressive lineup of musicians, actors, and dignitaries sang Clement’s praises during a magical evening, jam-packed with standing ovations, talent and love.
Entering as a grand marshall leading a five-piece brass band, Clement was led to his front row seat to be honored with video segments sent by Taylor Swift, President Bill Clinton, Bono, Dennis Quaid and Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives. Clips even included footage from his 2007 film Shakespeare Was a Big George Jones Fan.
Clement, a producer, engineer, and songwriter, had an influential hand in artists’ careers including Jerry Lee Lewis, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Charley Pride, among many others. Many of the hits he wrote and worked on behind the scenes for were showcased throughout the evening, which was produced by Artist Growth.
Performers included Billy Burnette and Shawn Camp (“My Girl is Red Hot”), Del McCoury (“It’ll Be Me”), Tim O’Brien (“Miller’s Cave”), Sam Bush (“Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog”), Charley Pride (“Just Between You And Me” and “Kiss An Angel Good Morning”), Vince Gill (“Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger”), John Prine (“Ballad of a Teenage Queen”), Amos Lee (“I Know One”), Nikki Lane and Dan Auerbach (“Just Someone I Used To Know”), The Wallflowers’ Jakob Dylan (“I’ve Been a Long Time Leaving (But I’ll Be a Long Time Gone)”), Marshall Chapman (“Let’s All Help the Cowboys (Sing the Blues)”), Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris (“Dreaming My Dreams With You”), Kris Kristofferson alongside Shawn Camp, Kenny Vaughan, W.S. Holland and David Roe (“Big River”), T Bone Burnett and Buddy Miller (“Guess Things Happen That Way”), and John Hiatt (“Amanda”).
Plaques and presentations were bestowed upon the Cowboy, including those from the Music Health Alliance, for which the evening benefited; Sirius XM’s inaugural Steve Popovich Legacy Foundation Award; recognition sent by Gov. Bill Haslam recognizing Clement as an Official Ambassator of Goodwill from the state of Tennessee; and a framed letter from Michelle Obama, read by Nashville‘s Connie Britton.
Additional guests included legendary guitarist Scotty Moore, Deadwood’s Earl Brown, Sirius XM Outlaw Country’s Mojo Nixon and Hillbilly Jim, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Nashville writer Callie Khouri, and Allen Reynolds among many others.
At various times throughout the evening, recollections were made of time spent at the Cowboy’s famed Belmont home, which suffered fire damage in 2011. Nicknamed The Cowboy Arms Recording Studio and Spa, time spent at the home was remembered as hospitable to many developing talents. Of these vagabonds, Mary Gauthier noted, “When you put a bunch of outsiders together in a room, you get insiders.”
Shortly before Gauthier and Matt Urmy sang “We Must Believe In Magic,” Bono’s video tribute recalled the Cowboy always wondering if one believed in magic, particularly during the time Clement co-produced U2 at Sun Studios. “Jack, the magic believes in you,” said Bono.
Kristofferson similarly offered praise for the night’s honoree, crediting Clement for “everything good that has ever happened to me.”
Clement, himself, rounded off the evening’s performances on stage with 13 gifted musicians for performances of “When I Dream,” “Good Hearted Woman,” “Brazil” and “Gone Girl.”
For the evening’s attendees, the night was nothing short of magical––as so much of Clement’s life work has been.
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