JJ Cale: ‘Send me the money, let the younger guys have the fame’
New album Roll On closes with a song called Bring Down The Curtain, which says: ‘Enough is enough/Can’t do it no more.’ Is that it? Adios, amigos? “I don’t know. I wouldn’t have put that on but it is a good ending. Didn’t mean to depress ya. I’m at an age where I am looking at the end of the clock. Intimations of mortality? I guess. Mind, Willie Nelson is older than me and he’s still going. So don’t take it too literally. I’m not only a reality writer, I’m a fictitious writer. I like to amaze myself with a cute twist and turn.”
Perhaps that’s the ultimate self-analysis from an artist who doesn’t do ‘projects’ and only signs one-off deals. “I don’t ever think I’m making a record,” Cale says. “I just do it, and when it falls into place, 75 per cent cohesive, I’m always surprised. I listen to it and think: ‘Is it any good? Are the songs any good?’ ‘Is it a concept?’ I don’t have a clue. It’s just natural evolution. Everything I do is an accident. But it’s my accident.”
And, he points out: “No one tells me what to do. There’s no one at my door. I’m famous for Cocaine, Call Me The Breeze and, hell, they might even make After Midnight the Oklahoma state song soon. It don’t bug me if that’s all the average guy knows. I don’t make music most young people would like. Some do. I isn’t no rapper, though I like rap now they made the lyrics more interesting,”
Suddenly Cale gets a fax confirming the bitter-sweet news that he’s booked to tour California and beyond. “Oh lord,” he sighs. “I’d better watch my voice. I’ve got to play well enough so people don’t throw tomatoes at me. If I’m healthy enough I might even get on an aeroplane and see you. Maybe.”
*Subsequent to the publication of this feature, Cale’s manager Mark Kappus wrote to Classic Rock, disputing that the conversation about Mark Knopfler ever occurred and disputing several other details in the piece. Classic Rock stands by the article but Mr Kappus’s letter is reproduced below for the sake of completeness.
I am writing as JJ Cale’s manager. We appreciate the enthusiasm and support from Max Bell and Classic Rock magazine for the significant and generally very good piece on JJ Cale in your May issue. I should also note that we generally never respond to articles or reviews about artists that we represent, regardless of the point of view expressed, but there are significant factual errors in this article — in particular some that shed an unfair and inaccurate light on JJ Cale with regard to his nature and his feelings about Mark Knopfler that need to be clarified.
For whatever reason, there are numerous errors in the quotes attributed to Mac Gayden. While Gayden is quoted as saying that JJ Cale was maligning Mark Knopfler when Gayden visited Cale at his LA home a few years ago, please note that Gayden’s last visit to Cale’s home was over 20 years ago and that Cale has not lived in LA since shortly after that time.
Most importantly, under any circumstance, Cale never maligns Mark Knopfler’s obvious influence but always responds by noting how all musicians, including himself, borrow from others. In fact, later in this very same article Cale is quoted as saying: “I’m a musician, that’s what we do.” Mark also did not coincidentally call Cale precisely when Gayden was visiting. The truth is that Cale only spoke with Mark once and that was in September 1985, when Mark was touring in California and Mark rushed from his show at the Concord Pavilion to meet and join Cale on stage at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley They had a friendly chat after the show but never spoke on the phone or in person before or after that day. Anyone should also be able to easily research the fact that they never toured together.
There arc additional errors in the piece: Elmer Valentine suggested the name JJ Cale to avoid confusion with John Cale of the Velvet Underground, not because he thought “it would look good on the marquee” (and not, as later stated by others, to avoid confusion with Johnny Rivers).
The title To Tulsa And Back was my own suggestion (as Cale confirms on-screen in his documentary) and came after the recording was completed. There was never a plan to call the loosely discussed Nashville recordings To Nashville And Back. And Cale might say “ain’t” but I can’t believe he would say “I isn’t no rapper”.
There is more but it is mainly the Mark Knopfler items that communicate to the public a completely inaccurate picture of JJ Cale’s nature and his feelings about Mark Knopfler and are unfair to all parties involved.
Mike Kappus, The Rosebud Agency, San Francisco, USA
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