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Terry Callier

For far too long, folk-jazz mystic Terry Callier was the exclusive province of a fierce but small cult following; a singer/songwriter whose cathartic, deeply spiritual music defied simple genre categorization, he went all but unknown for decades, finally beginning to earn the recognition long due him after his rediscovery during the early '90s. Born in Chicago's North Side -- also home to Curtis Mayfield, Jerry Butler, and Ramsey Lewis -- and raised in the area of the notorious Cabrini Green housing projects, Callier began studying the piano at the age of three, writing his first songs at the age of 11 and regularly singing in doo wop groups throughout his formative years. While attending college, he learned to play guitar, eventually setting up residency at a Chicago coffeehouse dubbed the Fickle Pickle and in time coming to the attention of Chess Records arranger Charles Stepney, who produced Callier's debut single, "Look at Me Now," in 1962.

In 1964, Callier met Prestige label producer Samuel Charters, and a year later they entered the studio to record his full-length bow, The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier; upon completion of the session, however, Charters traveled to Mexico with the master tapes in tow, and the album went unreleased before finally appearing to little fanfare in 1968. Undaunted, Callier remained a fixture of the Windy City club scene, and in 1970 he and partner Larry Wade signed on with his boyhood friend Jerry Butler's Chicago Songwriters Workshop. There they composed material for local labels including Chess and Cadet, most notably authoring the Dells' 1972 smash "The Love We Had Stays on My Mind." The song's success again teamed Callier with Stepney, now a producer at Cadet, and yielded 1973's Occasional Rain, a beautiful fusion of folk and jazz textures that laid the groundwork for the sound further explored on the following year's What Color Is Love?

Despite earning strong critical notices and building up a devoted fan base throughout much of urban America, Callier failed to break through commercially, and after 1975's I Just Can't Help Myself he was dropped by Cadet; in 1976, he also suffered another setback when Butler closed the Songwriters Workshop. Upon signing to Elektra at the behest of label head Don Mizell, Callier resurfaced in 1978 with the lushly orchestrated Fire on Ice; with the follow-up, 1979's Turn You to Love, he finally cracked the pop charts with the single "Sign of the Times," best known as the longtime theme for legendary WBLS-FM disc jockey Frankie Crocker. He even appeared at the Montreux Jazz Festival. However, when Mizell exited Elektra, Callier was quickly dropped from his contract; after a few more years of diligent touring, he largely disappeared from music around during the early '80s; a single parent, he instead accepted a job as a computer programmer, returning to college during the evenings to pursue a degree in sociology.

Although he had essentially retired from performing, Callier continued composing songs, and in 1991 he received a surprise telephone call from fan Eddie Pillar, the head of the U.K. label Acid Jazz. Pillar sought permission to re-release Callier's little-known, self-funded single from 1983, "I Don't Want to See Myself (Without You)." Seemingly overnight, the record became a massive success on the British club circuit, and the singer was soon flown to Britain for a pair of enormously well-received club dates. In the coming months, more gigs followed on both sides of the Atlantic, and in 1996, Callier even recorded a live LP, TC in DC. In 1997, he teamed with British singer Beth Orton, another of his most vocal supporters, to record a pair of tracks for her superb EP Best Bit; the following year, Callier also released his Verve Forecast debut Timepeace, his first major-label effort in close to two decades. Lifetime followed in 1999, and two years later came Alive, recorded live at London's Jazz Cafe. Callier returned in 2002 with Speak Your Peace and 2005 with Lookin' Out. In May of 2009, Hidden Conversations, co-written and produced by Massive Attack, was released on Mr. Bongo in the U.K.; a release in the United States followed in the fall of 2010. Two years later, however, he died from cancer in Chicago on October 27, 2012. Terry Callier was 67 years old. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Hidden Conversations

1. Wings

2. Sunset Boulevard

3. Hidden Conversations

4. The Hood I Left Behind

5. Once I Dreamed Of Heaven

6. Fool Em I Fool R U

7. Rice And Beans: Grace

8. Jessie And Alice

9. John Lee Hooker

10. Live With Me

x

Track List: Life Time

1. When My Lady Danced

2. Sunset Boulevard

3. Comin' Up From Babylon

4. Holdin' On

5. Where A Lark Is Singing

6. Nobody But Yourself

7. 4 Miles

8. Love Can Do

9. When The Music Is Gone

10. Fix The Blame

11. I Don't Want To See Myself (Without You)

12. Lifetime

x

Track List: Time Peace

1. Ride Suite Ride

2. Lazarus Man

3. Keep Your Heart Right

4. Aka New York All

5. Traitor To The Race

6. C'est La Vie

7. Java Sparrow

8. Coyote Moon

9. People Get Ready/ Brotherly Love

10. Love Theme From Spartacus

11. No More Blues

12. Time Peace/ No One Has To Tell You Build A World Of Love

x

Track List: Turn You To Love

1. Sign Of The Times

2. Pyramids Of Love

3. Turn You To Love

4. Do It Again

5. Ordinary Joe

6. Occational Rain

7. Still Water (Love)

8. You And Me (Will Always Be In Love)

9. A Mother's Love

x

Track List: What Color Is Love

1. Dancing Girl

2. What Color Is Love

3. You Goin' Miss Your Candyman

4. Just As Long As We're In Love

5. Ho Tsing Mee (A Song Of The Sun)

6. I'd Rather Be With You

7. You Don't Care

x

Track List: Occasional Rain

1. Go Ahead On

2. Ordinary Joe

3. Golden Circle

4. Go Head On

5. Trance On Sedgewick Street

6. Do You Finally Need A Friend

7. Go Head On

8. D

9. Occasional Rain

10. Go Head On

11. Blues For Marcus

12. Lean On Me

13. Go Head On

x

Track List: The New Folk Sound Of Terry Callier

1. 900 Miles

2. Oh Dear, What Can The Matter Be

3. Johnny Be Gay If You Can Be

4. Cotton Eyed Joe

5. It's About Time

6. Promenade In Green

7. Spin Spin Spin

8. I'm A Drifter

9. Be My Woman

10. Jack O' Diamonds

11. The Golden Apples Of The Sun

Comments

Report as inappropriate
dlambert489
RIP Terry Callier and Charles Stepney. Both underappreci a t e d geniuses.
Report as inappropriate
Oh so coool.
Report as inappropriate
Oh so beautiful... : - )
Report as inappropriate
WOW! Heard a great interview on NPR last night with Eddie Pillar on how he found Terry after he left music, and how Eddie finally got him to record again. Terry Callier fans should go on to NPR's web site and listen to this... It is a GREAT program!
Report as inappropriate
milagrosgvil l a m i l 4
I have liked this brother since first hearing him in Ontario in the 80's His Brother to Brother album hooked me
Report as inappropriate
I've been a fan of Terry Callier and Charles Stepney since the 70s. I think "What Color is Love" is a classic Album. There is simply no one like him and I don't think there ever will be. I wish everyone could have a chance to just listen to this Album just once and they would see what I'm talking about. Terry Callier is pure genius and a beautiful soul.
Report as inappropriate
dvax10
I've been a fan of Charles Stepney for years (early '70's). I've heard about Terry Callier for several years but hadn't heard his music. That changed after finally hearing 'WHAT COLOR IS LOVE' on YouTube. FINALLY got around to picking up his cd here in NYC a few weeks ago. Now its on my IPod to go everywhere with me!
Report as inappropriate
What Color is Love is an album by Terry Collier from the early 1970's. It also had on it Dancing Girl.
Report as inappropriate
Please play from this artist, What color is Love. Please Please!

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