Calvin Frazier

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Calvin Frazier
Birth name Calvin H. Frazier
Born (1915-02-16)February 16, 1915
Osceola, Arkansas, United States
Died September 23, 1972(1972-09-23) (aged 57)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Genres Detroit blues, country blues[1]
Occupation(s) Guitarist, singer, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1930–1972
Labels Various

Calvin H. Frazier (February 16, 1915 – September 23, 1972)[2] was an American Detroit blues and country blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. Despite leaving a fragmented recording history, both as a singer and guitarist, Frazier was an associate of Robert Johnson, and recorded alongside Johnny Shines, Sampson Pittman, T.J. Fowler, Alberta Adams, Jimmy Milner, Baby Boy Warren, Boogie Woogie Red, and latterly Washboard Willie. His early work was recorded by the Library of Congress (now preserved by the National Recording Registry) prior to the outbreak of World War II, although his more commercial period took place between 1949 and 1956.[1][3]


Frazier was born in Osceola, Arkansas,[2] and originally performed with his own brothers. Befriending Johnny Shines, in 1930 they jointly travelled to Helena, Arkansas where they met Robert Johnson. The threesome moved on to Detroit, Michigan, with Frazier bringing his wife Gussie Mae and their children. Here they performed hymns on local radio stations. Frazier and Johnson returned south where they played along with the drummer, James 'Peck' Curtis.[1]

In 1935, Frazier was involved in a dispute in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was wounded, and his only brother and another man shot dead. Frazier returned to Detroit with his wife, but then wed Shines' cousin resulting in an invalid marriage. He played guitar as an accompanist to Big Maceo Merriweather, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Baby Boy Warren before being recorded in 1938 by the folklorist Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress. His recordings included "Lily Mae", dedicated to his wife and which was a revised version of Johnson's "Honeymoon Blues"; and "Highway 51", another variant, this time of Johnson's track, "Dust My Broom".[1]

His unique style combined slide guitar work with unusual lyrics, and a vocal phrasing that was difficult to decipher.[1] He released three singles under his own name in 1949 and 1951 on the Alben and New Song labels, including "Got Nobody To Tell My Troubles To", which he recorded in Toledo, Ohio in 1951.[3] Between 1951 and 1953, Frazier was a recording member of T.J. Fowler's jump blues combo, then recorded with Warren in 1954, whilst his final sessions in the studio appear to be in 1956 backing Washboard Willie.[3] Without any tangible success on record or otherwise, Frazier nevertheless performed around Detroit taking his youngest daughter Carol Frazier along on his venture's until his death.[1]

Calvin Frazier died in Detroit of cancer in September 1972, at the age of 57.[2]

His most notable work was "This Old World's in a Tangle"; both the title of the first song he recorded, and of the compilation album issued by Laurie Records in 1993, which included some of his earliest work.[3][4] Nine of his full length original recordings were included in the JSP Records 2005 compilation, Detroit Blues: Blues from the Motor City 1938–1954.[5]

In 2009, the Detroit Blues Society instigated an appeal to raise monies to mark Frazier's previously unmarked grave with a headstone.[6] By December that year a granite slab was in place.[7]

Compilation albums[edit]

  • This Old World's in a Tangle (1993) - Laurie[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Ankeny, Jason. "Calvin Frazier". Allmusic. Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c Doc Rock. "The 1970s". The Dead Rock Stars Club. Retrieved 2014-01-26. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Calvin Frazier discography". Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Calvin Frazier | Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-01-26. 
  5. ^ Marisa Brown. "Detroit Blues: Blues from the Motor City 1938-1954 - Various Artists | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-01-26. 
  6. ^ "Calvin Frazier Headstone Project - Goodrich, MI". 2009-03-31. Retrieved 2014-01-26. 
  7. ^ [1] Archived November 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]