SAN DIEGO - Singer J.J. Cale, a Grammy-winning bluesman and music writer, has died at a La Jolla hospital, his web site said Saturday. He was 74.
The songwriter had given up on any music career and was living anonymously in Oklahoma when Eric Clapton covered his bluesy "After Midnight" as a raucous rock anthem in 1970. Cale was unaware of Clapton's version until he heard it on top 40 radio in Tulsa, four years after he had recorded it as a
demo, according to magazine reports at the time.
"I was dirt poor, not making enough money to eat and I wasn't a young man," he told Mojo magazine. "I was in my thirties, so I was very happy (with the hit). It was nice to make some money."
"After Midnight" was covered by such diverse acts as Chet Atkins, The Shirelles, The Jerry Garcia Band and Phish. Cale drove to Nashville to record a solo album, and his earthy blues version of "After Midnight" reached number 42 on the Billboard album rock charts in 1972.
Cale was a prolific writer of hits in the '70s, penning such classics as "They Call Me The Breeze" for Lynard Skynard. Other '70s acts familiar to album rock listeners on FM radio that covered his work were The Band, Maria Muldaur, and Captain Beefheart.
Clapton returned to Cale's catalog to record "Cocaine," and their 2007 collaboration album, "The Road To Escondido," won them a Grammy.
One biographer asked Cale if it bothered him that fellow musicians considered him a legend, but he was not well known to fans.
"No, it doesn't bother me," he said. "What's really nice is when you get a check in the mail."
Cale had suffered a massive heart attack, and died at 8 a.m. Friday at Scripps Memorial Hospital. No services were immediately scheduled, his web site said.