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Clark finds a set of keepers

By Jeffrey B. Remz, June 1997

Page 2...

In Houston 30 years ago, Clark performed regularly at folk clubs and coffee houses. He gave that up for San Francisco to perform and repair guitars, back to Houston as an art director for a television station and to Los Angeles for music. To pay the rent, Clark worked at a dobro factory.

"I decided if I were ever going to do it, I was going to do it. I didn't wind to up wishing I'd do it, so I did it."

"Every time I could get an opportunity play some songs, I would do it," Clark says. He had no demo tape.

Clark scored a publishing deal with Sunbury Music and moved back to Nashville in 1971.

In 1972, Walker recorded "L.A. Freeway," one of Clark's first songs to be recorded. "It wasn't that big a surprise because I was working pretty hard at it," Clark says.

"I didn't have any timetable or schedule. You just do the best you can. Whatever happens, happens."

Other cuts followed with Johnny Cash ("Texas 1947" and "The Last Gunfighter Ballad").

By 1975, Clark had his first record deal, releasing "Old No. 1" on RCA. He released "Texas Cookin'" in 1976, "Guy Clark" in 1978 on Warner, "South Coast of Texas" in 1981 and "Better Days" two years later.

While not exactly a big seller, Clark's writing kept him going. Ricky Skaggs gave Clark his first number one, "Heartbroke" in 1982. George Strait and Rodney Crowell also recorded the song.

Vince Gill went Top 15 with "Oklahoma Borderline" in 1986.

Clark did not release his own album again until 1989's "Old Friends" on Sugar Hill, the small North Carolina label. He switched to Asylum, a major label putting out Americana recordings (including Clark's "Boats to Build"), but none worked.

"I enjoyed being there," Clark says. "It was a fairly classy operation, but once again it was that big label mindset. They didn't quite know how to focus on my market. The marketing is there to buy the records, but they're still going scattershot marketing. They just kind of throw it out there in every marketplace and don't focus."

"They had a game plan, but it obviously didn't work," Clark says.

"Of course, it's frustrating to be as successful as you think it should be, but that's part of it. It doesn't always work very time you want it to be."

Despite that, Clark wasn't concerned. "I can also put out records, and there is a market there. I just have to work at it."

He went back to Sugar Hill. Still recording and writing. "I like what I'm doing. I like in particular doing with Barry Poss at Sugar Hill because he focuses on the market that I appeal to. I don't get a lot of airplay. That's okay with me, but I would like it to be as successful as it possibly is."

Clark says he doesn't think the writing process has changed much over the years. "I don't have any real formulas to it. Sometimes I'll write complete lyrics without picking up a guitar...There are no real no patterns."

No new studio will be out until Clark gets writing, or as he says, "as soon as I write 12 more good songs" as keepers.

"I like writing in the morning. I"m always fresher and seem to work better. I like to sing in the morning in the studio. Basically, I just try to draw on personal experience. There is a certain amount of poetic license. I've found over the years is writing what you know about is the best. Truth is stranger fiction. You write about stuff you couldn't make up."

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