REMEMBERING GUY CLARK
by Norman Warwick
Whenever we follow sidetracks & detours we not only find hidden away music but also music hidden in plain sight and clearly signposted above the mainstream highways. Thus we noticed a link that I´m sure must have emanated from Peter Pearson that read
and took us to an article about Guy Clark, a song-writer often lauded on these pages.
This was a report on a panel discussion held on the theme of Remembering Guy Clark. It took place and the Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum on January 14th 2017 and was hosted by the Museum´s Peter Cooper (left), a man Peter Pearson had advised us to research in the first place. The panel that Cooper chaired that day included some of his frequent collaborators like Shawn Camp, Chuck Mead and Verlon Thompson, who would deliver songs and take part in the discussion group. .and Guy´s biographer, Tamara Saviano.
The panel begins with Saviano—author of 2016’s “Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark”—explaining why it bugged Clark to be called a “craftsman,” a term used frequently to capture his broadly admired lyricism as well as his talent for building guitars. The panelists share memories of time spent with Clark in his basement workshop, where he worked on building both guitars and songs. By alternating between writing a song and building a guitar, Clark could alternate between both sides of his brain, Thompson says.
In early 2020, that workshop was meticulously reconstructed and placed on view inside the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, as part of the major exhibition “Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s” (open May 25, 2018, through June 5, 2022).
The panelists also talk about Clark’s wife and muse, Susanna Clark, and the friendship the couple shared with songwriter Townes Van Zandt.
The set list includes: “Dublin Blues” (sung by Shawn Camp), “Let Him Roll” (performed by Chuck Mead), “Desperados Waiting for a Train” (Verlon Thompson), “Lower Broad St. Blues” (Mead), “This Guy, Guy” (Camp), and “The Guitar” (Thompson).
Near the end of the program, Saviano explains, “He would always say, ‘I’m not out to rewrite the truth.’ That was his line. After Susanna died, he handed me her journals and I said, ‘Guy, have you read these?’ And he goes, ‘No, whatever is in there is Susanna’s truth and her voice deserves to be heard.’ And she wasn’t always kind to Guy in those journals. He was so brave and fearless and he didn’t care what anybody thought about him. He was like, ‘This is me.’ Always.”
How the hell had I ever missed all this? Thank God for the due diligence of readers like Peter Pearson who continues to look for new and old music long after the fading of The Omaha Rainbow and the drought that hit The Stillwater Times.
Most readers of Sidetracks And Detours need no reminding of how much I loved and admired the man and his music. Notwithstading that Guy´s stature and heavily hooded eyes could be pretty intimidating he was, in interview mode, the same storyteller he was in song. I suppose I saw Guy in concert maybe a dozen times, and the stories never grew old, or the characters too familiar.
photo 3 dominoes I have cited lines from his songs as titles for a number of pieces previously published in Sidetracks And Detours, such as Old Friends (They Shine Like Diamonds) and Moon and Forty Two, a line from Desperadoes Waiting On A Train.
Instant Coffee Blues is up there with the very best songs I know and although I wrote a review too soon of the album Boats To Build that title track, too, is a great song. The album didn´t hit me as immediately as had its predecessors and my first published review damned it with faint praise. It has grown on me over the years and Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, John Stewart, Nanci Griffith and Kate Wolf are the five song-writers I most miss.
So, this insight, which is a podcast that runs for over an hour is as fine a reminder of Guy´s talent and the high regard in which he is still held by his peer group.
WITHOUT GETTING KILLED OR CAUGHT:
The Life and Music of Guy Clark
(John and Robin Dickson Series in Texas Music, sponsored by the Centre for Texas Music … Texas State University) (English Edition) Kindle Edition
Winner, 2016 the Belmont Book Award, Sponsored by the International Country Music Conference
For more than forty years, Guy Clark wrote and recorded unforgettable songs. His lyrics and melodies paint indelible portraits of the people, places, and experiences that shaped him. He has served as model, mentor, supporter, and friend to at least two generations of the world’s most talented and influential singer-songwriters. In songs like “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” L.A. Freeway,” “She Ain’t Going Nowhere,” and “Texas 1947,” Clark’s poetic mastery has given voice to a vision of life, love, and trouble that has resonated not only with fans of Americana music, but also with the prominent artists—including Johnny Cash, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Jeff Walker, and others—who have recorded and performed Clark’s music.
Now, in Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark, writer, producer, and music industry insider Tamara Saviano chronicles the story of this legendary artist from her unique vantage point as his former publicist and producer of the Grammy-nominated album This One’s for Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark. Part memoir, part biography, Saviano’s skillfully constructed narrative weaves together the extraordinary songs, larger-than-life characters, previously untold stories, and riveting emotions that make up the life of this modern-day poet and troubadour.
The book is part of a lengthy series of books on related topics or artists and is available from Amazon, Just tap in the tile and author and you will find the review aibove as well as references to other titles such as
Pickers And Poets; The Ruthlessly Poetic Songwriters From Texas, a book that will thrill all lovers of artists such as Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Steve Fromholz and Michael Martion Murphey, Kristofferson and Terry Allen.
Another book looks at The Broken Spoke, a legendary night club on the scen at that time, that I constantly heard as one of the names that fell out in conversation when I was interviewing artists like thos named above.
There are biographies, too, of other seminal artists like Delbert McLinton. The biography of Ray Wylie Hubbard is appropriately titled The Messenger and another, titled Looks Like Rain, promises to explore the song-writing legacy of Mickey Newbury.
In a series that describes itself as seventeen books on the history of Texas music, it is reassuring that the list of titles include I´ll be Hewre in The Morning, a biography of Townes, and Live Forever looking at the life and music of Billy Joe Shaver.
So that´s six months reading right there !
I thank you Peter Pearson, as I think will our readers, when we start to publish our reviews of these titles.
So, watch this space for a further exploration of the CMA web site.