Grammy winner and legendary songwriter Guy Clark, 74, died in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday after a long illness.
Guy Charles Clark was born on Nov. 6, 1941 in the West Texas town of Monahans, southwest of Odessa. He grew up in his grandmother’s hotel, where an inspiring menagerie of guests wandered through — including a wildcatter named Jack Prigg, the basis of Clark’s song “Desperados Waiting For a Train.”
Clark later moved to Rockport near Port Aransas and became a student athlete, playing football, basketball and participating in track and field events. During his teenage years on the Gulf Coast, he fell in love with Mexican folk songs and Flamenco guitar. He put aside college and joined the Peace Corps in 1963 and trained in Puerto Rico.
Clark eventually moved to Houston, where he opened a guitar shop and, after performing in clubs and coffee shops, began lifelong friendships with fellow songwriters Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker Kay Oslin and Mickey Newbury.
He married his first wife, Susan Spaw, in 1966 and had a son, Travis. But Clark and his wife split, and he got a job working at a guitar shop in San Francisco in 1969. Within a year, though, he was back in Houston playing bluegrass music and pitching songs to publishing companies.
Clark signed a publishing deal with Sunbury Dunbar and moved to Nashville with Susanna Talley in the fall of 1971. Clark and Talley got married in 1972 with Newbury and Van Zandt in attendance.
While in Nashville, Guy wrote “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” “L.A. Freeway,” and “That Old Time Feeling.” By the time Guy released his debut album in 1975, he had written several soon-to-be classic songs including “She Ain’t Going Nowhere,” “Let Him Roll,” “Rita Ballou,” and “Texas 1947.”
He scored a No. 1 song with Ricky Skaggs’s take on “Heartbroke” in 1982 and broke into the Billboard country chart with “Homegrown Tomatoes” in 1983. Clark released a string of folk and Americana albums with Sugar Hill, Asylum Records and Dualtone Music Group during the next 25 years, including his final 2013 Grammy-winning album, “My Favorite Picture of You.”
Clark hosted songwriters, folk singers and artists at his home for more than 40 years, including friends Rodney Crowell, Jim McGuire, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett, Verlon Thompson, Shawn Camp, and Vince Gill.
Susanna Clark died from complications of lung cancer in 2012. Because of ongoing health problems, Guy stopped touring and recording soon after. He is survived by his son Travis and daughter-in-law Krista McMurtry Clark; grandchildren Dylan and Ellie Clark; sisters Caroline Clark Dugan and Jan Clark; manager and friend Keith Case; caretaker and sweetheart Joy Brogdon; nieces, nephews and many, many dear friends, colleagues and fans.
Funeral arrangements are pending.