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Over the last few years Terry Callier's music had seen something of a renaissance in the UK, where he has been touring and recording in response to this latter day interest shown in his music. Terry had taken a slightly different route to that of his contemporaries, his music is not restricted by the secular boundaries of soul music and its gospel roots but draws from a much wider spectrum that embraces jazz, folk, pop and the blues. Callier's music won't fit easily into the confines of any one category, genre or box - colour him free.
He grew up on the South side of Chicago and went to University of Illinois where he traded his piano for a guitar. Terry had actually begun to write and sing his own songs in the early '60s. In his early teens, he hung out with childhood friend Larry Wade and the two of them sang their musical apprenticeship within a number of vocal groups from the Cabrini Green area of the city, where they came up alongside Jerry and Billy Butler, Major Lance and Curtis Mayfield. Terry made his first break into recording when he cut a session for Chess Records, from which one single emerged. 'Look At Me Now' though much influenced by the Drifters most commercial latin period, missed its audience and quickly slipped into the realms of 'collectable'.
Two years later Terry got a second chance, this time with the jazz based Prestige label, for whom producer Sam Charters was in the process of creating a folk music outlet. Hence the New Folk Sound Of Terry Callier was recorded. It was not until his first album with Cadet in '71 however that Terry really established his unmistakable style within the unique originality of his own superb songs. He joined the Butler Workshop and teamed up with Larry and together they wrote a great series of songs the Dells and Jerry Butler and as a result Callier landed a solo deal with Cadet Records.
With the release of the Occasional Rain album and the amazing follow up What Colour Is Love, Callier soon earned respect and admiration from his fellow artists and although he commanded a faithful following of fans from his small club and coffee bar appearances, his work did not sell well enough to chart nationally. A third Cadet album I Just Can't Help Myself was issued and that still could not create quite enough commercial interest. So he left the Workshop in '76 and quit the music business altogether. He took a job with the local council that enabled him to stabilise his earnings and to provide for his growing family. But he never gave up his music entirely and still continued to write and make the occasional small club appearance.
Terry signed to Elektra in late ’77 who got behind the first album Fire & Ice and sent Callier on a nationwide tour supporting Gil Scott-Heron. Terry also scored his only R&B singles chart placing with 'Sign Of The Times' that went to #78 in August '79 and this track became the title of his second album for the label.
When his young daughter Sundiata came to live with him in ‘83, once again Callier's life took another direction and he retrained as a DAT systems analyst in order to put her through high school. This time Callier's layoff was more permanent but his guitar was never far away. Although he worked his day job at the computer he would still make 'one off' appearances now and then and managed to cut 'I Don't Want To See Myself' as a single in the mid eighties. It went unnoticed by all but the most faithful followers but a reissue on UK based Acid Jazz Records in August 1990 created some club interest. Intermittent UK gigs followed and Terry began to build a core fanbase. He made several trips to Europe in the early to mid '90s. This process has gradually raised his profile to the present day where he receives quite good airplay and has made a number of TV appearances such as 'Later... with Jools Holland' and also appeared at the Glastonbury Festival '98. He tours the UK annually and can often be seen at London venues like the Jazz Café.

Trading on the success of his successful Timepeace album in ’98 most of Terry's back catalogue was reissued on CD in the UK. Talkin' Loud released a second album Lifetime in the autumnal months of '99. No surprises - he did it again, providing another faultless collection of superb songs that included 'Fix The Blame', 'Holdin' On' and a new version of 'I Don't Want To See Myself', the song responsible for his re-emergence. Mr Bongo issued two albums Terry Callier ‘alive’ (in ’01) and Speak Your Peace (in ’02). Callier seems able to sustain his high standard with each album and if his audience stays faithful lets hope he can continue to record and perform here long into the future.

Peter Burns August ‘04

Other SoulMusicHQ references
Jerry Butler
Billy Butler

More research available by email
from SoulMusicHQ.com
Terry Callier full biography by Peter Burns
Discography
Sessionography
Photographic Scans

Recommended reading
‘People Never Give Up’ Peter Burns – Published by Sanctuary /03

Recommended listening
The New Folk Sound Of Terry Callier (8) UK BGP CD 101 /95
Timepeace (13) UK Talkin' Loud Verve 539 2492 /95
Occasional Rain (13) UK MCA UMD 80512 /98
What Color Is Love (7) UK MCA UMD 80510 /98
I Just Can't Help Myself (8) UK MCA UMD 80511 /98
Fire On Ice (9) UK Elektra masters 7559-62604-2 /01
Turn To Love (9) UK Elektra masters 7559-62603-2 /01
Lifetime (12) UK Talkin' Loud Verve 534 054-2 /99
Terry Callier alive (10) UK Mr Bongo MRBCD 19 /01
Speak Your Peace (14) UK Mr Bongo MRB CD 23 /02

 


 
   
   
             
               
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