Born John Weldon Cale but known professionally as "J. J.," Cale exemplifies the term "laid back." His bluesy shuffle and lowkey vocals became synonymous with "low-key cool" in the 1970s and were embraced by artists such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton, and Dire Straits. Cale is perhaps best known for writing songs other people made famous, such as Clapton's versions of "Cocaine" and "After Midnight" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's take on "Call Me the Breeze." Clapton was so heavily influenced by Cale in the 1970s that the album Slowhand and its hit "Lay Down Sally" are Clapton's tributes to Cale's signature sound. Dire Straits's 1979 hit "Sultans of Swing" is also deeply indebted to Cale's fluid guitar lines and whispery singing style.
Born on December 5, 1938, in Oklahoma City but raised in Tulsa, Cale played in a number of rock and roll bands and Western swing groups, moved to Nashville, and moved back to Tulsa before reconnecting with Leon Russell. The two young musicians moved to Los Angeles in 1964. By 1965 Cale had written and recorded "After Midnight," which became a hit for Clapton in 1970. After his only self-recorded Top Ten hit "Crazy Mama" (1972), Cale continued releasing critically acclaimed albums, touring sporadically, and remaining reclusive through the turn of the twenty-first century.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Patricia Romanowski and Holly George-Warren, eds., The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll (New York: Fireside, 1995).
Hugh W. Foley, Jr.
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