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JJ Cale

JJ CALE, a Grammy-winning singer/songwriter and guitarist whose work was covered by an array of top artists, died Friday at Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla, CA, after suffering a heart attack. He was 74. The Oklahoma native penned such blues-based perennials as "Cocaine," "After Midnight" (both hits for Eric Clapton) and "Call Me the Breeze" (made famous by Lynyrd Skynyrd); his work was also covered by Tom Petty, Santana, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, The Allman Brothers, Captain Beefheart, Bryan Ferry, Widespread Panic and countless others. John Weldon Cale's laid-back mix of  blues, folk and jazz was at times referred to as the "Tulsa Sound"; his incisive guitar lines had a strong impact on fellow players such as Neil Young (who called Cale and Jimi Hendrix his two favorite electric guitarists) and Mark Knopfler. Cale made his recording debut, as Johnny Cale, with the 1958 single "Shock Hop" b/w "Sneaky"; by the time of his first album, 1972's Naturally, he'd adopted the moniker "JJ" to distinguish himself from art-rocker and Velvet Underground member John Cale. He continued releasing albums for nearly four decades, the last being 2009's Roll On. His 2006 release with Clapton, The Road to Escondido, earned a Best Contemporary Blues Album Grammy; that same year saw the release of a documentary, To Tulsa and Back, that followed Cale on tour. As Rolling Stone noted after interviewing him for Roll On, the man's personal appeal matched the mellow charm of his music: "Turns out that the man who wrote the awesome Clapton hits 'After Midnight' and 'Cocaine' is one of the most down-to-earth dudes we've ever met." (7/29a)

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