The P Speaks: Guy Clark, Folk Icon


Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes
What’d life be without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can’t buy
That’s true love & homegrown tomatoes

– Guy Clark

It’s tomato season here in the dkpresents garden, so I’ve been thinking a lot about Guy Clark. I have a tomato fetish – cherry tomatoes specifically. Sweet 100s, Golden Nuggets, Black Cherries, Gardener’s Delight, Riesentraube and my favorite of the week, the spectacular Sweet Chelseas.  

Guy Clark has been singing in his wistful voice about tomatoes — and other things — since the late 1950’s. A native Texan, Guy was influenced by Texas blues legends like Mance Lipscomb and Lightnin’ Hopkins in his early days on the Houston-Austin folk circuit in the early 60’s, where he rubbed elbows with Townes Van Zandt and Jerry Jeff Walker. 

Clark moved to the west coast in the late 60’s – San Francisco and later Los Angeles – and started to write songs of personal experience, resulting in visual stories like ‘LA Freeway’ and ‘Desperados Waiting for a Train.’ Tiring quickly of Southern California, Clark – and his artist wife Susanna – moved to Nashville in 1971, and they were quickly surrounded by a talented fraternity of singer-songwriters: Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Billy Joe Shaver, David Allan Coe, Van Zandt and others. Johnny Cash and Jerry Jeff Walker were some of the earliest to release Guy Clark’s songs on their albums, and many collaborations with others have followed, including Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Joe Ely, John Prine, Emmylou Harris and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Clark has 12 albums to his credit, and my personal favorite is Old No. 1 from 1975. (For you gardeners, ‘Homegrown Tomatoes’ was released on 1983’s Better Days.)

Guy Clark has been a nonstop touring legend for close to 35 years. I first saw him perform in 1991, sharing the stage with the enigmatic Townes Van Zandt and a youngster named Robert Earl Keen, Jr. who has evolved into quite a storyteller himself. Guy Clark broke his leg in May of this year, and had to stop touring for a couple of months. Here’s to a speedy recovery and for full mobility in time for his scheduled appearance at Hardly Strictly.

In the interim, I hope he’s enjoying being home during tomato season…

Listen: L.A. Freeway [Live]

Listen: Homegrown Tomatoes [Live]
If I’s to change this life that I lead
I’d be Johnny Tomato Seed
Cause I know what this country needs
Homegrown tomatoes in every yard you see
When I die don’t bury me
In a box in a cemetery
Out in the garden would be much better
I could be pushin’ up homegrown tomatoes

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4 Responses to “The P Speaks: Guy Clark, Folk Icon”

  1. World B. Furr Says:


    Melissa Etheridge is looking old.

  2. The P Speaks: Townes Van Zandt, Folk Icon « dk presents… Says:

    […] Hank Williams, Lightnin’ Hopkins guitar style, Bob Dylan’s early lyrics and his friend Guy Clark, Van Zandt moved to Houston in the early 1960’s to try his hand at the musician’s life. […]

  3. Gianluca Says:

    Nice piece there. I also saw Guy and Townes in ’91 at New York City’s Bottom Line. Guy opened and I remember during Townes set, Guy snuck out from backstage and stood crouched on the floor at end of the bar to watch Townes’ set. I never got to see Townes again, unfortuntely, but I’ve seen Guy dozens of times an even got to interview him. Here’s a link to Guy talking about his songs and writing them, among other things.

  4. Buried Treasure: Old No. 1 « dk presents… Says:

    […] the course of his career, Guy Clark has released 13 albums and none have sold particularly well. But he’s a musician’s […]

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