Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 6 November 1941, Monihans TX) Country singer/songwriter, one of the best at capturing the American vernacular. He worked as an art director on a Houston TV station mid-'60s; to Los Angeles (breaking into the music biz by working briefly in the Dobro guitar factory), then Nashville '71 as songwriter. Wrote hits 'Desperados Waitin' For The Train' (Jerry Jeff Walker, David Allen Coe), 'The Last Gunfighter' (Johnny Cash), 'L.A. Freeway' (Walker), 'Heartbroke' (Ricky Skaggs); a Bobby Bare cover of 'New Cut Road' was a country hit; 'The Carpenter' covered by John Conlee on LP Harmony, etc.

His own series of albums with his likeable smoke-stained voice and laid-back style began on RCA: Old No. 1 '75, Texas Cookin' '76, with Walker, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Rodney Crowell etc in the cast, including his own versions of 'Freeways', 'Desperados' (about old men waiting for death); plus 'Texas 1947', a superb addition to American train-songs; 'Anyhow, I Love You', both laconic and passionate; joyous celebrations of country fiddling and music in the park including 'A Nickel For The Fiddler', 'Virginia's Real' with Johnny Gimble on fiddle. (Old No. 1 was reissued on Sugar Hill; 20-track Essential Guy Clark '97 on BMG UK was superb value.) He switched to WB for Guy Clark '78, then South Coast Of Texas '81 (Clark rejected the LP after sleeves were printed and the record mastered; he switched to Crowell as producer and did it over), Better Days '83. (Two-CD Craftsman '95 on Philo included these three albums complete.) Title track of South Coast is a fine helping of nostalgic colour; WB tracks also included songs about lovers as fools/cynics: 'Who Do You Think You Are', 'Fool In The Mirror'; 'She's Crazy For Leavin' co-written by Crowell; 'Homegrown Tomatoes' is tribute to kitchen gardens. Warner Brothers Music Show Live Album '79, made on two-track tape at the Cellar Door in Washington DC, became a collectors' item, as did In Concert on Dot.

His singable, often funny songs about the real world ought to have made him a household name, but he remained a cult artist. He became a mentor in Nashville, writing with Crowell, Roger Murrah, Jim McBride, Lee Roy Parnell etc; songs covered by younger artists including Kathy Mattea, Jesse Hunter, Vince Gill ('Oklahoma Borderline' '85), Kenny Chesney ('Hemingway's Whiskey' 2010). Meanwhile Guy was back in the studio for Old Friends '88 on Sugar Hill, released in the UK on U2's Mother Records; then Boats To Build '92 and Dublin Blues '95 on Asylum, the last described by Ian Anderson in Folk Roots as his best yet: 'I wish I was in Austin/In the Chilli Parlor Bar/Drinkin' Mad Dog Margaritas/And not carin' where you are ...' His second wife wife Susanna co-wrote songs including 'Easy From Now On' with Carlene Carter, 'Come From The Heart' with Richard Leigh; 'Old Friends' and 'So Have I' by Guy and Susanna with Richard Dobson. Keepers -- A Live Recording '97 on Sugar Hill with a five-piece band (including his son Travis on bass) had 13 new versions of classics and two new tunes co- written with band members. Clark guested on the second album by the seriously good singer-songwriter Kate Campbell, Moonpie Dreams '97 on Demon UK (her first album was Songs From The Levee '95 on Compass USA). This One's For Him 2011 was a tribute album including the likes of Lyle Lovett and John Prine in the cast. 

His beloved Susannah was also an artist, whose painting of the Pleiades constellation was used on the cover of Willie Nelson's Stardust '78. He had lost her to lung cancer in 2012; his My Favorite Picture Of You 2014 had a picture of her on the cover, and won a Grammy for Best Folk Album. He himself suffered from lymphoma for a decade.