Country Music Hall of Famer and legendary songwriter/producer Jack Clement died this morning at his Nashville home. He was 82.
The Tennessean reports that the Memphis-born musician, known in the music world as “Cowboy Jack,” had been battling liver cancer at the time of his death.
Clement is known as being one of the most influential figures in country music. He was the first to discover and record Jerry Lee Lewis and worked with his friend Johnny Cash on several of his biggest hits, including 1963’s “Ring of Fire,” which Clement produced.
There has been no official announcement yet concerning Clement’s funeral.
Clement was born on April 5, 1931, right outside of Memphis in Whitehaven, Tenn., where his father was a choir director at a nearby church. At age 17, he enlisted in the Marines and was eventually stationed near Washington, D.C. During his time with the military, he formed a bluegrass band alongside Buzz Busby. After being discharged, the two performed on radio as Buzz and Jack and the Bayou Boys.
He recorded briefly in 1953 under the Sheraton label in Boston but decided to put his music career on hold to enroll at Memphis State University, where he studied until 1955. The following year, he was offered a job as a record producer by Sam Phillips, founder and owner of Sun Records.
At Sun, Clement worked to establish artists like Cal Perkins, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. It was also there that he discovered and recorded Jerry Lee Lewis while Phillips was away on a trip to Florida.
In 1960, he accepted a job offer from Chet Atkins to work for RCA Records in Nashville as producer and writer, but he left a year later to open Gulf Coast Recording Studio with Bill Hall in Beaumont, Texas. In 1964, he helped to produce Cash’s smash hit “Ring of Fire,” and a year later he returned to Nashville.
Back in Country music’s capital, Clement brought artists like Charley Pride and Ray Stevens into prominence and continued writing and producing for famous artists including Dolly Parton, Ray Charles, Waylon Jennings, Eddy Arnold and Elvis Presley.
He was inducted into Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973. Four decades later, it was announced in April this year that he would be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The ceremony was scheduled to take place later this year.
Listen to Clement’s recent Daytrotter session, released this past April, here.