JJ Cale – Pioneer of The Tulsa Sound

JJ Cale  – Pioneer of The Tulsa Sound

JJ Cale is a legendary singer, songwriter and guitarist who left behind a treasured legacy for his fans. Furthermore, to this day, his music continues to inspire new artists. During his four-decade career, he recorded 15 albums and inspired a generation of artists. His influence is immeasurable. As a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist he helped to bring the Tulsa Sound into existence.

Hailing from Oklahoma City, his subdued blend of blues, country, folk, rockabilly and jazz along with his fluid guitar riffs. Ultimately, sets the foundation that becomes his signature sound. Later as a teenager, he further studies sound engineering at college and creates a recording studio while still living with his parents.

During this time, Cale plays in a variety of local rock & roll bands and Western swing groups. Including one outfit that features Leon Russell. In 1959, at the age of 21, he moves to Nashville, where he is hired by the Grand Ole Opry’s touring company. After a few years, he returns to Tulsa, where he reunites with Russell and begins playing local clubs again.

The Military – To The Music Industry

After graduation, he joins the Air Force and receives more technical training. Meanwhile, once out of the service, Cale and Leon Russell move to Los Angeles with another local Oklahoma musician, Carl Radle.

Shortly after he arrives in Los Angeles, Cale begins playing with Delaney & Bonnie. He only plays with the duo for a brief time, beginning a solo career in 1965. During this time, Cale becomes a studio engineer. With his extensive knowledge of mixing and sound recording, he starts a pivotal role in his career. Which is acting as his own producer, engineer, and session player.

After a while, he returns to Tulsa. Although he has success with “Crazy Mama” in 1972, other artists that record his songs have better luck. Such is the case with “After Midnight” and “Cocaine” that Eric Clapton makes famous. Along with “Call Me the Breeze” that appears on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1974 album Second Helping.  

Opportunities &  Beyond

While J.J. Cale has opportunities to become a much bigger worldwide star, he is always notorious for declining great opportunities. Baffling many in the industry who isn’t accustom to such a determination to stay grounded and real.

Furthermore, disregarding the fame and fortune that most artists crave. His philosophy allows him to live more than comfortably on his own terms. Allowing him to also avoid many of the superficial trappings of stardom. It enables him to focus on what really matters to him at the time which is music. By this point, Cale settles into a comfortable career as a songwriter living off his royalties while releasing albums here and there. Basically, going into seclusion.

Carnegie Hall Performance With The Band

That said, he receives an offer to play Carnegie Hall on March 29, 1996. It’s one that struck a special chord and got an enthusiastic green light. Cale feels at the time that this might be a once in a lifetime opportunity to play the legendary venue. What makes the deal even sweeter is that it’s a chance to share the bill with his friends in The Band. 

The two artists’ mutual appreciation for each other’s work is solidified by the fact that THE BAND releases their own version of Cale’s “Crazy Mama” on their “High On The Hog” album just one month earlier. Meanwhile, the event is promoted as The Band with special guest J.J. Cale. It’s his only appearance at the famous venue. Afterwards, its back to being a recluse at his home in Tulsa.

Clapton & Cale – Road To Escondido

Cale returns to recording in 2003, releasing To Tulsa and Back in 2004 on the Sanctuary label and The Road to Escondido, a collaborative effort with Clapton, in 2006 on Reprise. Roll On appears in 2009 on Rounder Records.

A CD/DVD set drawn from sessions Cale recorded with Leon Russell on keyboards in 1979, In Session at the Paradise Studios, appears early in 2013. In July of that year, Cale dies of a heart attack in a hospital in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California at 74 years old.

Clapton – The Breeze & Stay Around

Clapton assembled a high-profile roster for The Breeze: An Appreciation of J.J. Cale, which included himself, John Mayer, Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, Derek Trucks, Mark Knopfler, and more.

In 2019, a compilation of unreleased tracks entitled Stay Around is curated and released by Cale’s widow, Christine Lakeland. This album includes B-sides or for future recordings. We highly recommend you check it out. 

While trying to include all the amazing things this songwriter and musician have accomplished in this blog. We barely scrape over what J.J. Cale was able to accomplish during his music career. 

Even more, is how many musicians and songwriters he inspired along the way.  So, be sure to delve into more of his music and career. Here’s a start: https://www.jjcale.com/ 

Another fun thing to check out is “My J.J. Cale” – YouTube Episodes which features different people and artists telling their stories about Cale.

Be sure, to check out the other blog posts: https://jbonamassa.com/category/blog

CREDITS: jjcale.com, Billboard