Most managers talk about "clients" or "artists." Mike Kappus, on the other hand, speaks of his "friend". Because the relationship the 68-year-old now had with J.J. Cale was unique. "He was a real unicum," says the San Francisco-based manager and producer, who has also worked with John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison. "It was often not easy to run his business, because he had no telephone and could hardly be reached. But I consider myself lucky to have known him."
These words of praise go to a singer and guitarist who lived for years under the pseudonym Charles Johnson on a Californian campsite, who turned his back on the industry for a while, steadfastly refused to give concerts and only recorded demo versions of his songs - mostly with guitar, drum computer and whispering vocals that were mixed far into the background. "He actually only created templates that he hoped would please other musicians and then be covered by them. As such, John Weldon Cale, as he was bourgeoisly known, also had his greatest successes: "After Midnight", "Cocaine" or "Call Me The Breeze" became hits in the interpretations of Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnny Cash, Kansas or Bryan Ferry - while he could at best show moderate sales under his own name. "He didn't get along with industry," Kappus explains. "He felt misunderstood and pressured. That's why he only signed contracts for one album in the end."
All the more respect was shown to him by colleagues like Mark Knopfler, Neil Young or Eric Clapton, who appreciated his stylistic diversity and his idiosyncratic sound. Cale always sounded so deeply relaxed, as if he were composing in the rocking chair on his veranda, which in combination with all his whims contributed to the myth of J.J. Cale. In addition to the total refusenik, this also includes the bon vivant, who preferred to ponder about women - about erotic adventures, but also downright frivolities. "I slapped my hands over my head when I heard songs like 'Closer To You' with lines like 'Wish I was your underwear hanging around your waist'. I thought, "He's not serious, is he? And he didn't. He was a quiet, modest, polite person - and he really loved his wife. They were together for 36 years."