In the song “Red River,” the late, great Guy Clark sang, “Susanna, oh Susanna, when it comes my time, please bury me south of that Red River line.” Though Guy Clark cherished his homestate of Texas, his remains will be laid to rest in a more unique and equally fitting fashion. In his will, Clark requested that legendary cult songwriter and celebrated conceptual artist Terry Allen create a sculpture from his ashes.
Clark met Allen during a tour in the early 1980s and became mesmerized by the singer’s sculptures, which have since been included in Museum of Modern Art in New York. The two were kindred spirits; both native Texans and neither fitting neatly into the Music Row mainstream. They even wrote a few songs together, including “Queenie’s Song,” about the death of Allen’s beloved dog.
A few days after Clark’s death, a crew of his family and longtime friends, including Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell, trekked to Allen’s Santa Fe home with Clark’s ashes in tow. Allen held a wake for his old friend with Emmylou Harris, Jack Ingram, Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett, Joe Ely and Robert Earl Keen in attendance.
Allen hasn’t announced details about what the sculpture will look like or where it will reside. But with a figure like Clark as his muse, it’s sure to be larger than life. As Tamara Saviano, author of Without Getting Killed Or Caught: the Life and Music of Guy Clark, wrote in a Facebook post, “Guy Clark does not fit in a box.”
Allen, often considered the godfather of alt-country, is part of the so-called “Lubbock mafia.” The group includes Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Joe Ely, who all grew up in the flatlands of the Texas plains.
Though never a household name, Allen has maintained fervent support among fans and peers who appreciate his unorthodox lyrics about truckloads of stolen artwork and diligent story songs about West Texas characters that don’t fit the typical Nashville mold. Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell covered Allen’s “Amarillo Highway” on stage last year.
Terry Allen has seen a much deserved resurgence in popularity recently. His 1975 debut album Juarez was reissued earlier this year and his out-of-print album Lubbock (On Everything) (produced by Lloyd Maines) will be reissued on Oct. 14.