Quick, what songs from the seventies do you think of first when I say Eric Clapton? I'd lay odds that at least one, if not two of them, would be either "After Midnight" or "Cocaine."
Back in the early 1970's, there was a great trivia question you could ask, and very few people would know the answer. Who wrote the Eric Clapton hits "After Midnight" and "Cocaine"? Of course everybody knows the answer now, but back then hardly anybody had ever heard of a guy named J. J. Cale.
You could make a pretty convincing argument that Clapton's solo career wouldn't have taken off quite as quickly if it hadn't been for J. J. Cale. A casual fan of Clapton's music from that time period, like me, probably couldn't even tell you the name of another song that he had a hit with during that period.
Oh yeah, his cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff," got airplay around the same time. Nine times out of ten if they played an Eric Clapton song on the radio (FM radio, you'd never hear any of his stuff on the AM dial – far too risqué), it would be one of those three. But more often than not, it would be one of the former two.
I've never been a big fan of Clapton, but to give him credit where credit is due, he was always quick to mention this great guitar player from California who was good enough to let him play a couple of his songs. Gradually people began to get to know the name J. J. Cale, until you'd hear his versions of "After Midnight" and "Cocaine" on the radio about as often as you'd hear Clapton's.
Mainly because he couldn't be bothered to play the game, and he preferred to stay at home and play guitar over going out on the road (the story goes that he said if I can't get home to my own bed after a gig I'm not interested), Cale has always remained on the edges of the limelight. He's known by those who care to seek out fine guitar playing and a rough hewn voice, but for the majority he's just a name on the credits of a couple of Eric Clapton songs.