The news this morning that Guy Clark has passed away in Nashville, while not at all unexpected, is still quietly defiant and sad. I've listened to Guy's music since I picked up a copy of Jerry Jeff Walker's "A Man Must Carry On" in Germany in 1977. First heard him sitting in a hotel room in Dublin in 1978, on the English Channel of Radio Eire, doing "LA.Freeway..." First record I ordered when I got back to the states was "Old Number 1" and the second "The Fool on the Hill."
He admitted that he lived in Nashville because that was where the work was for him, but he as Texan as you can be, and all in a good way. Work hard, drink some whiskey, sit around with friends and talk shit while passing the IW Dance and a guitar. Be tolerant, kind, and take no shit. He was a frequent visitor to the "Guitar Pulls" at Johnny Cash's home. People would show up, play their stuff, and pick and grin and bullshit. Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Rodney Crowell, John Anderson, Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris,Bobby Bare and whomever else was around would show up. Showcase their new stuff casually -- somewhere between "I've been working on this one" and "networking." Get ideas, add and steal licks, sing some harmony and learn from each other how their music could sound.
Clark lived in an older home in East Nashville and would spend his days in his basement working on songs or building guitars. Among the people who came by to either get a bridge fixed on an untuneable guitar or to get some advice and coaching on songs they were working on. People who came by frequently included Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Rosanne Cash, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen and others. Rosanne Cash said that she felt she had a real future as a songwriter when she showed him "Seven Year Itch" and he said, "That's good." At his induction into the Austin City Hall of Fame, Lyle Lovett said "That without Guy Clark, there'd be no Lyle Lovett."
An authorized biography and a documentary about Guy and his music was proposed as a Kick Starter Project with a goal of $75000. With a title taken from LA Freeway, "Without Getting Killed or Caught:The Life and Music of Guy Clark" hit the goal in under a week, and has raised over $186K. The artist who had complete access to Guy and his friends, notes and memories is Tamara Saviano, and she's on schedule to get both completed and released soon. She spent a lot of time, love and effort with Guy, and the Americana community and people who care about music and art and culture owe her a tremendous debt.
OK, I've cried three times in the last 20 years, and they've been very brief bouts of tears. Once for my Dad when he died; once for my Mother; and now for Guy Clark. One of Guy's best known songs is "Desperadoes Waiting for a Train" which I've played three times. For my father, my mother and now for Guy Clark. I hate that goddamned song, and I don't like to cry. But if three people in my life have influenced me profoundly, they have and the tears are memories and greeting cards...