MATT SWEENEY

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— These two photos were taken almost simultaneously of my hero, “Cowboy” Jack Clement. This was last Autumn. I used my phone to take the shot of him smiling, sitting next to him on the studio couch where I’m writing this now:

Here’s the man who gave encouragement, guidance and careers to Kris Kristofferson, Townes Van Zandt and dozens more then-unknown outsiders and freaks. Supreme benevolent mentoring father. You can see the photographer Lindsey Rome in the background, taking Jack’s photo from the other side. With a turn of his head Clement put on an entirely different show for the large-format film camera operated by the attractive photographer: Here’s the badass ex-Marine and unknowable wildman emulated by Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. He could make these guys nervous- they were performing for his approval when he was producing legendary recordings of them. An awesome presence—in the true, scary and charismatic sense of “awesome”. Jack Clement, Nashville’s Wizard of Oz.

One of the principal architects and songwriters of rock and roll and post-1950s country music. He was switched on, making every moment into a performance that reveled in paradoxes. A famous Cowboy Jack line is, “Shakespeare was a big George Jones fan.” Clement never stopped flipping words and situations, Clement constantly fucked with “reality”.

These two photos together are some of my favorite possessions.


Matt Sweeney is an American guitarist, vocalist, and producer. He is best known for co-founding the band Chavez, in 1993. Sweeney also has worked with various musicians and groups including Johnny Cash, Endless Boogie, Cat Power, Guided by Voices, and Bonnie Prince Billy, with whom he recorded the 2005 album SUPERWOLF.