CMA Close Up: Cowboy Jack Clement’s Last Ride

CMA Close Up: 

Cowboy Jack Clement’s Last Ride

Cowboy Jack Clement was a singer, songwriter, record producer, movie maker, song publisher, record label executive, ballroom dancer, bandleader, video pioneer and recording studio innovator. He was also a born showman. The one thing he wasn’t was a cowboy — he hated horses and didn’t wear boots.

But despite his many accomplishments, For Once and For All, recorded during his last year and released by I.R.S. Records Nashville on July 15, is only the third album of his career.

Clement’s longtime studio engineer Dave “Fergie” Ferguson and co-producer Matt Sweeney agreed that he needed to leave behind one last audio testament. “When I talked to him about doing it, he lit up,” said Ferguson. “He wanted to do it. And he put his heart into it. Jack was pretty bored, you know. He’d been sick. I think that when he was recording, it took his mind off the things that were going on. I think he figured out that this was his last record.

“Sometimes he was too weak or in pain or needed to rest,” Ferguson continued. “But when different people would come in to add their parts, Cowboy would just come to life. Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys) came in and played guitar. When John Prine came in, that’s one of the days that stood out. Cowboy would really perform for John. T Bone Burnett would come over, just to be with Jack and play guitar and be a part of it.”

A couple of months later, in April 2013, there came another milestone, as Clement, Bobby Bare and Kenny Rogers were announced as the newest inductees into CMA’s Country Music Hall of Fame. “When I saw that it was going to be Cowboy and me, I got really excited,” said Bare. “At the same time, I pretty much knew that he wouldn’t make it to the induction. But he was there (at the announcement). Cowboy was a little weak, but he knew he was going into the Hall of Fame.”

In his last months, a long line of artists came to pay respects to Clement and join in on his final sessions. Supporting his performances are Dierks Bentley, the Del McCoury Band, Joey Miskulin of Riders In The Sky and Stuart. Singing daughter Alison Clement is in the cast, as are two of his protégé producers, Garth Fundis and Allen Reynolds.

Clement’s fellow Country Music Hall of Fame members Bare, Vince Gill and Emmylou Harris are on the album. So are his fellow Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famers Rodney Crowell, Dickey Lee and Prine, as well as Gill and Reynolds. Adding to the album’s luster are contributions from Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Duane Eddy and Leon Russell … and many more. Even after Clement’s death, his buddies continued to add their voices and instruments to For Once and For All.

As Ferguson put it, “I promised him I would finish it.”

On the Web:

By Robert K. Oermann

© 2014 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.


Cowboy Jack Clement on the day of his induction announcement at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, 2013.
Cowboy Jack Clement on the day of his induction announcement at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, 2013.

Photo Credit: John Russell / CMA


Cowboy Jack Clement finds harmony with Johnny Cash.
Cowboy Jack Clement finds harmony with Johnny Cash.

Photo Credit: Marty Stuart



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