Cale got his start in music playing at honky-tonks in Tulsa, Oklahoma before joining the Grand Ole Opry road company. In 1964, he moved to Los Angeles to work as an engineer while trying to get his career as a recording artist off the ground. While he did find work as an engineer for Leon Russell, he had a hard go of it as an artist. Cale was considering giving up on music entirely until 1970 when Eric Clapton recorded a cover of Cale’s “After Midnight” for his debut solo album. After that, Cale’s career took off with the release of Naturally in 1972.
Cale’s style of guitar playing-blues with an infusion of folk and jazz guitar-was a unique take on the genre at a time when many blues guitarists were going in a harder direction. Cale would be associated with Clapton for much of his career, especially after Clapton’s cover of Cale’s “Cocaine” became a massive hit. The two recorded an album, The Road To Escondido, in 2006.
Cale’s talents as a songwriter and a guitarist were truly special. He will be sorely missed.