I poured myself a cup of coffee this morning and started reading the news and was nailed by the announcement of JJ Cale’s death. Most normal people probably don’t even know who JJ Cale was. However, if you’re a musician, especially a guitar player, this man was a legend. Neil Young called him the best electric player next to Hendrix, Clapton called him a master and the living person that he most admired, Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits cites him as a major influence. Cale’s songwriting was incredible and his tunes were recorded over the years by famous artists such as Eric Clapton, Waylon Jennings, The Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Santana, The Allman Brothers, Johnny Cash and Chet Atkins. He’s also credited with being the father of The Tulsa Sound which influenced musicians everywhere.
The cool thing about JJ Cale is that he started out making music and recording albums, but returned to Tulsa and got a job to pay the bills. That was in 1970…everything changed when Eric Clapton recorded Cale’s song, “After Midnight.” From there on it was all uphill with Clapton making “Cocaine” famous and Skynyrd rocking out on “Call Me the Breeze.” Other artists continued to recognize the genius of JJ Cale and cover his music and brought his artistry to the world.
It’s kind of a shame that everyone knows Cale’s songs but have no idea who he is. In fact, Clapton gets far more credit for the songs than Cale does! JJ Cale will be better known after his death than he was at his musical heyday. They’ll be tribute concerts and albums, news stories, TV specials and everyone will come out of the woodwork to say how wonderful he was. There’s nothing wrong with this… in fact, it’s great that he’s finally getting the recognition that he deserves. But the lesson for us to remember is that there is always someone behind the scenes. It’s good to be behind the scenes. Recognition may come at some point, but the goal for now is to continue to be the best songwriters and artists that we can be. Imagine the joy that JJ Cale felt after hearing “After Midnight” on the radio for the first time. “That’s my song! I wrote that song! Yes!” It’s good to be behind the scenes.
We’re like that at Presco. We may not be a household name like the “Eric Claptons” that we deliver products to, and that’s okay. We’re still proud and sometimes we jump around and yell like JJ Cale hearing his songs on the radio. “Yes! Home Depot is carrying our a new collegiate marking flags!” Our job is to continue making high quality products, sinking our heart and soul into the creative process and new product development and then rejoice when we see the success that our “rockstar” distributors are having.
I’m the type of person that likes to learn. When I hear a new song come out my first thought is “I wonder who wrote this?” Why? Because if they wrote that one then they probably wrote ten other ones that are just as good that the world hasn’t heard yet… JJ Cale has some incredible songs and I encourage you to do some searching and get to know him a bit. Likewise, when you see some of our products in Home Depot, Loews, Whitecap, John Deere, Grainger or one of our other rockstar distributors, take a look and see what other great things we’re doing. You might find some incredible things that you didn’t even know existed!
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite JJ Cale tunes to aid you in your discovery process….