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Magnolia - J. J. Cale

The other John Cale.

In 1964, singer songwriter John Weldon Cale (known as J.J.) moved to LA in search of fame and fortune as a guitarist and singer songwriter. In 1967 he returned to his hometown Tulsa, Oklahoma, largely because, even after he had recorded and distributed a demo single on Liberty Records at his own expense, he had gotten nowhere. In 1970, the "B" side of the single was brought to the attention of Eric Clapton by Delaney Bramlett whose band Delaney and Bonnie and Friends he (Clapton) had been gigging with. The song was "After Midnight" and Clapton liked it so much he included it on his first solo album and it has since become one of his most popular tracks. This success enabled J.J. Cale to return to LA and negotiate a record deal with the Shelter record label, owned by Leon Russell, who played (along with Delaney and Bonnie) on Clapton's version.

Along with "After Midnight", "Magnolia" was a track from Cale's first album: "Naturally". In the pantheon of girl's names taken from flowers that includes Iris, Poppy, Rose, Daisy, Jasmine, Hyacinth and so on, Magnolia must be one of the more unusual and I wouldn't mind betting that Cale's original was from California rather than Oklahoma. Whoever met someone called Magnolia? If I have, they almost certainly cunningly disguised themselves as Maggie. But Cale resurrects the name, giving it a gentle majesty.

Over the years, Cale achieved almost mythical status among rock cognoscenti: Clapton admired his spare guitar style and even recorded an album with him, and Neil Young rated him second only to Jimi Hendrix.

"Magnolia" shows his guitar at its best: relaxed, uncomplicated, boiled down yet still exhilaratingly melodic, like his soft sandpaper vocal.

What's in a name anyway? Well, J.J. only became "J.J." so that he wouldn't be confused with his Velvet Underground namesake. Easily done - they're both great songwriters - and "J.J." sounds cooler than "John".

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