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Songwriting legend GUY CLARK doesn’t merely compose songs; he projects images and characters with the hands-on care and respect of a literary master. Clark works slowly and with strict attention to detail, and has produced an impressive collection of timeless gems. The emotional level of his work, as well as the admiration and esteem of his peers, consistently transcends sales figures and musical genres. Clark continues to be the type of songwriter whom young artists study and seasoned writers (as well as discriminating listeners) revere.
Clark was born in the West Texas town of Monahans, where he was raised mostly by his grandmother, who ran the town hotel. The first songs Clark learned were mostly in Spanish. Later, when he moved to Houston and began working the folk-music circuit, he met fellow songwriter Townes Van Zandt and blues singers Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb. In the late ’60s, he relocated to San Francisco and then returned to Texas, where he met and married his wife Susanna, a painter and songwriter. The pair moved to Los Angeles, where Clark worked for dobro inventors, the Dopyera brothers. In 1971 he and Susanna packed up and headed for Nashville, where Clark had been offered a staff writer position at Sunberry Music Publishing, and subsequently signed his first recording contract with RCA Records.
Clark’s first album, Old No. 1, came out in 1975, a few years after Jerry Jeff Walker had turned Clark’s song “L.A. Freeway” into a hit. By this time Clark was considered one of the most promising young writers in country music, and while he didn’t live in Texas anymore, the state’s influence still ran thick in his blood. He recorded one more album for RCA, Texas Cookin’, in 1976 before switching to Warner Bros. for his next three albums, Guy Clark; South Coast of Texas; and Better Days, all released between 1978 and 1983. Three of his songs from these albums were in the Top 100.
Clark continued to work as a writer but didn’t record again until 1988’s Old Friends, released by Sugar Hill. He then moved to Asylum’s renowned American Explorer imprint, releasing 1992’s Boats to Build. His eighth album, Dublin Blues, also on Asylum was released in 1995. Cold Dog Soup followed in 1999 and The Dark in 2002, both released to critical acclaim on Sugar Hill. Clark’s discography also includes two compilation releases: Rounder’s Craftsman in 1995 and RCA’s The Essential Guy Clark in 1997; as well as two live recordings: Keepers, a best-of collection released on Sugar Hill in 1997, and 2001’s Guy Clark/Steve Earle/Townes Van Zandt Together At The Bluebird Café on American Originals.
A number of Clark’s songs have been hits for other artists such as Johnny Cash, David Allen Coe, Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, Vince Gill, The Highwaymen, Rodney Crowell, Lyle Lovett, and Jimmy Buffett. In 2004, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Foundation’s Songwriters Hall of Fame, and he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Songwriting by the Americana Music Association in 2005.