Raised and educated in Memphis, Jack Clement was performing at an early age. In 1953, he made his first record for the Sheraton label in Boston, Massachusetts but did not immediately pursue a full time career in music, instead choosing to study at Memphis State University from 1953 to 1955. Nicknamed ‘Cowboy’ Jack Clement, during his student days he played steel guitar with a local band, and in 1956 became part of one of the seminal events in rock and roll history when he went to work as a producer and engineer for Sam Phillips at Sun Records. There, Clement worked with future stars such as Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. But most importantly, he discovered and recordedJerry Lee Lewis while Sam Phillips was away on a trip to Florida (one of those recordings,“Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” was selected in 2005 for permanent preservation in theNational Recording Registry at the Library of Congress). In 1957, Clement wrote the song “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” that became a crossover hit for Johnny Cash. Another Cash hit written by Clement was “Guess Things Happen That Way”, which was # 1 country and # 11 pop in 1958. Clement performed the song on the Johnny Cash Memorial Tribute show on CMT in November 2003.
In 1959, Clement accepted an offer to work as a producer at RCA in Nashville, then the most important label in the industry. Clement went on to become a significant figure in the Nashville music business, establishing a publishing business, and his own recording studio, making records for stars such as Charley Pride and Ray Stevens. In 1971, he co-founded the J-M-I Record Company.
Jack Clement wrote a number of highly successful songs that have been recorded by singing stars such as Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Ray Charles, Carl Perkins, Bobby Bare,Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, Jerry Lee Lewis, Cliff Richard, Charley Pride, Tom Jones, Dickey Lee and Hank Snow. He was inducted into theNashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973. He also produced albums by Townes Van Zandt and Waylon Jennings.
Clement was involved in a few film projects as a singer or songwriter on soundtracks, and produced the 1975 horror film Dear Dead Delilah that marked the last film performance by actress Agnes Moorehead.
In 2005, a documentary on Clement entitled Shakespeare Was a Big George Jones Fan was created by Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, pieced together from Clement’s home videos and interviews with peers, including Jerry Lee Lewis and Bono.
Jack Clement has been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.