Tuesday, December 01, 2015 • 12:15

Legendary singer-songwriter J.J. Cale, longtime VC resident, dies at 74

JJ Cale and Eric Clapton.
July 31, 2013
The legendary singer-songwriter J.J. Cale, who died of a heart attack last Friday at a hospital in La Jolla, lived in Valley Center for 24 years. He was 74.

The publicity-shy guitarist moved with his wife Christine Lakeland to a 3-acre ranch in VC to find privacy, he often said.

The Valley Center History Museum has a photo on permanent exhibit of Cale with another famous guitarist-musician, Eric Clapton. The photo was taken when Clapton visited the Cale home in Valley Center in 2006 when they recorded the album, The Road to Escondido, which later won a Grammy Award.

JJ Cale
Despite the claims of some who say that they "see" Valley Center in the album cover, it was not shot anywhere near here. It was actually shot in Paramount Ranch, near Los Angeles.

Cale was a Valley Center resident who moved here in 1989.

He was, to use a favorite word of journalists who are endlessly frustrated by actors and musicians who insist on privacy, "reclusive." Or as Clapton's publicist Kristen Foster put it several years ago, "both Mr. Clapton and Mr. Cale are incredibly private individuals."

Unlike Clapton, who might have trouble traveling around without being recognized, Cale apparently had no trouble at all.

For years Clapton has credited the Oklahoma-raised Cale with having considerable influence on his style. In 1977 he played Cale's "Cocaine" in his album Slowhand. So perhaps it was inevitable that the two would eventually team up for an album.

And after the album Clapton had high praise for his collaborator: "This was the realization of what may have been my last ambition, to work with the man who's music has inspired me for as long as I can remember, there are not enough words for me to describe what he represents to me, musically and personally, and anyway I wouldn't want to embarrass him by going overboard, for he is a truly humble man.....I think it's enough to say that we had fun, made a great record, and I for one already want to make another."

They jointly produced and recorded the album. Cale wrote 11 of the songs. Clapton wrote "Three Little Girls," John Mayer wrote "Hard To Thrill" and the duo cover the blues classic "Sporting Life Blues." Cale's touring band accompanies them on the album as well as guest musicians including, Taj Mahal, John Mayer, Derek Trucks, Doyle Bramhall II, Albert Lee, Nathan East, Willie Weeks and Steve Jordan.

Cale was not as well-known as many famous musicians who played his songs, who include Clapton, Johnny Cash, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, Carlos Santana and Jerry Garcia. He worked as a struggling musician from the mid-1950's on. He was "dirt poor," as he described it and was on the verge of going into another line of work when he was driving through Tulsa and heard Clapton singing his song "After Midnight." It was a career-maker for both Clapton and Cale.

Clapton later wrote of Cale, "In my humble opinion, he is one of the most important artists in the history of rock, quietly representing the greatest asset his country has ever had."

  1. print email
    my thoughts of j j cale
    January 08, 2014 | 03:26 PM

    first i love all his songs, some more than others,i join the world mourning the lose of this great singer, i discovered jj cale about a year ago, his music is all i play now.i am 87 years young and i like songs from the heart, i don t like a lot of fuss over me, i travel all over the country by my self, trucking was my career untill 2000, wife died 2007 now i m alone, still traveling, would like up dates on what his band and wife are doing, many thanks in advance charles davis

    Charles Davis
  2. print email
    True Genius
    October 09, 2015 | 06:29 AM

    I've been listening to JJ Cale since I first heard 'After Midnight' on the Radio North Sea (one of the pirate radio stations off the Dutch coast). That song brings so many great memories for me. Ever since hearing that song I've been a fan. I would buy all his 'new' releases as soon as they were released. Never once been in anyway disappointed by what he released. My one big regret was I never got the opportunity to see the man perform 'live'. Fantastic music, high recommended. So RIP JJ Cale you're sorely highly missed. God Bless you!

    Trevor Legg
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