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McCalla was born to Hubert Sylvester McCalla, a minister in a gospel church, and Elizabeth Victoria McCalla, in North London, England. There were eight children in the family. He attended Alexandra Park infant school in London, but was withdrawn at the age of nine, as the family moved to Coventry, where he attended Hillfarm Junior School and began studies at Barkers Butts Secondary School,
At 15, McCalla dropped out of school to work with a band called Black and White Notes. They gigged and eventually supported The Shadows. He then joined Moon, who were signed to Epic Records. After splitting from the band, he stayed with Epic Records, releasing a solo album. In 1972, McCalla left his family in Coventry to move to London.
From 1977, he worked as a backing vocalist for Sniff 'n' the Tears. During this time, he worked as a freelance musician and made a solo album "Night Time Emotion" in 1979 produced by Trevor Rabin. He sang on Mike Rutherford's solo album Smallcreep's Day in 1980, on Morrissey–Mullen's 1985 This Must Be the Place. By 1981, he had decided to form his own band, which he had named Contact. They played a series of gigs, producing a cassette. In 1993, the band's name changed to McCalla, and they released “Push and Pull”, followed by “Hot From The Smoke" in 1995.
McCalla first became involved with Manfred Mann in 1990, featuring on the Plains Music album, and thereafter toured extensively with them, also featuring on the studio albums Soft Vengeance and 2006, and the live album Mann Alive. He was replaced as the band's vocalist by Peter Cox, best known for his work as lead singer of Go West.
From mid-2006, he collaborated with jazz band Dave Lewis 1Up.
His fifteen-year-old son Mali Michael-McCalla competed for a place in the fifth series of the UK talent competition X-Factor in 2008, but did not progress to the Live Final stages. Mali auditioned for the 2009 series, but did not get past the 'bootcamp' stage.
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