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Joe Calicott

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b. 11 October 1900, Nesbit, Mississippi, USA, d. 1969, Mississippi, USA. Joe Callicott spent his whole life in the area south of Memphis, and his music has affinities with that of his neighbour Jim Jackson and especially Frank Stokes, with whom he sometimes worked in Memphis. His chief musical associate, however, was Garfield Akers, and it was as Akers’ second guitarist that he first recorded in 1929. Callicott’s solitary 78 rpm single was recorded the following year, pairing ‘Fare Thee Well Blues’, from the songster tradition, with ‘Travelling Mama Blues’, an amalgam of contemporary verses, both sung in a high, forceful voice to a rhythmic accompaniment. Callicott virtually ceased playing in 1959 when Akers died; although he had slowed down somewhat, his guitar rhythms were still metronomic. His voice became gentler, making the sound of his music more akin to that of Frank Stokes (minus the melodic embellishments usually provided by Stokes’ second guitar or violin accompanists). He recorded some final sessions for the blues documentarian George Mitchell in the late 60s. Callicott favoured extended performances, but his ability to play in a variety of keys and tunings saves his work from the monotony that might be expected from the steady rhythmic tread, so that the overall effect is gently hypnotic.

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