Calvin Russell (musician)

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Calvin Russell
Calvin Russell, 2007
Calvin Russell, 2007
Background information
Birth nameCalvert Russell Kosler
Born(1948-11-01)November 1, 1948
Austin, Texas, US
DiedApril 3, 2011(2011-04-03) (aged 62)
Garfield, Texas, USA
Roots rock
Blues rock
Texas blues
Southern rock
InstrumentsElectric guitar
acoustic guitar
Years active1980s–2011
Full Blast
New Rose
SPV (pre-1994)
SPV Recordings
Last Call
Freefalls Entertainment
Associated actsJon Dee Graham
Townes Van Zandt
The Characters

Calvin Russell (born Calvert Russell Kosler, November 1, 1948 – April 3, 2011) was an American blues and roots rock singer-songwriter and guitarist.

Early life and career[edit]

Russell was born in Austin, Texas, on November 1, 1948. The sixth in a family of nine, Calvin Russell spends his first five years virtually behind the counter at Sho Nuff Café, where his father Red cooks and his mother Daisy is a waitress. At twelve, Calvin took up guitar and joined his first group, The Cavemen. At fifteen, he ran away to San Francisco. He survives on the road thanks to odd jobs and finds himself imprisoned several times for petty teenage offenses. Refractory to the American model of financial and social success, he marginalized himself and sold cannabis in order to subsist. Arrested several times, he spent ten years behind bars. On leaving one of his stays in prison, he embarks on a journey through the Great South and crosses the Rio Grande to Piedras Negras and El Paso. This is where he really starts to write songs and sing from town to town. He lives as a vagrant, but is caught by the Mexican authorities in the winter of 1985 with American weed full of his pockets. Indicted for fraudulent importation of narcotics, he spent a year and a half in the jails of the Mexican government. When he returned to Austin in 1986, he worked as a plumber, but continued to hang out in an alcohol and drug environment. He rubs shoulders with many musicians, including the legendary Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson and Leon Russell. Three years later, in December 1989, during a birthday party at the Continent Club of Austin frequented by many local glories, Calvin Russell sings his songs in a corner accompanied by an acoustic guitar. Nobody pays attention to him except Patrick Mathé, the boss of the French record company New Rose, who regularly visits Austin. Intrigued as much by the singer's physique as by the quality of his compositions, Patrick Mathé contacted Calvin Russell who left him a cassette. It is this model that gave birth to the album A Crack In Time that New Rose published in France in early 1990. The reception was excellent and Calvin wasted no time in coming to France to promote it. The following year, he released Sounds From The Fourth World, the consecration album, also recorded in Austin with Joe Gracey. Calvin starts touring a lot in France, filling clubs, while in Texas he is still ignored. Many newspaper pages are devoted there to the astonishing adventure of his European career, but without profit for his music. In 1992, Calvin Russell returned to the forefront with Soldier. Following on from the previous two albums, he recorded it again at Arlyn Studios, but production this time was under the direction of Jim Dickinson6, Emperor of Memphis Sound who worked with Ry Cooder and the Rolling Stones. At the beginning of 1994 appeared Le Voyageur, a live album recorded at the Olympia, the Élysée-Montmartre, the Exo 7 in Rouen and the Zig-Zag in Orléans, reflecting a marathon tour in which Calvin Russell gave in a year 178 concerts in Europe. In 1995, the highly acclaimed Dream Of The Dog was released, a turning point in his career. Dream Of The Dog is the title of an old Indian legend. The sleeve, which reproduces the designs on an Indian blanket, reveals Calvin's Comanche origins, with some of the symbols originating from his great-grandmother's tribe. Calvin Russell's next album, (recorded and mixed in Memphis), is decidedly bluesy and satisfies both fans and purists alike. To breathe before preparing the next one, this is a best of that Calvin Russell offers with This Is My Life, which however includes three new titles: Forever Young, Texas Song and It’s All Over Now. As This Is My Life (1998) appears at a stop at a gas station in Texas, his teenage past resurfaces with violence. A policeman notices the dirty windows of his car and asks him to get out. When he finds out he's in front of a former prisoner, he radio calls the dog handlers. They find his grass. His passport is confiscated, and this peccadillo could lead to the cancellation of all his suspended sentences, and ten years in prison. Eventually things got better, with semi-supervised release under pardon.

Illness and death[edit]

On April 3, 2011, Russell died in Garfield, Texas, after a lengthy battle with liver cancer at the age of 62.[1] He is survived by Swiss-born wife, Cynthia, who continues to live in Central Texas and son, Justin.[2]

Select discography[edit]

Solo releases[edit]


  • 1990: A Crack in Time (New Rose/SPV Recordings)
  • 1991: Sounds From The Fourth World (New Rose/SPV Recordings)
  • 1992: Soldier (New Rose/SPV)
  • 1993: Le Voyageur – Live (New Rose/SPV)
  • 1995: Dream of the Dog (SPV Recordings)
  • 1997: Calvin Russell (Last Call/SPV Recordings/Columbia)
  • 1999: Sam (SPV Recordings/Columbia)
  • 2000: Crossroad – Live (Last Call)
  • 2001: Rebel Radio (SPV Recordings/Freefalls Entertainment/Dixiefrog)
  • 2005: In Spite Of It All (SPV Recordings)
  • 2006: Live at the Kremlin (New Rose)
  • 2007: Unrepentant (XIII BIS)
  • 2009: Dawg Eat Dawg (XIII BIS)
  • 2010: Contrabendo – Live (XIII BIS)
  • 2011: The Last Call, In The Heat of a Night.. – Live CD/DVD (XIII BIS)


  • 1985: "Behind eight Ball/Baby I Love You" (MPPA)
  • 1991: "You're My Baby/Baby I Love" (New Rose)
  • 1991: "Crossroads/"Rockin' The Republicans" (New Rose)
  • 1992: "Soldier" (New Rose)
  • 1993: "This Is Your World" (New Rose)
  • 1997: "Crossroads" (Columbia)


  • 1997: The Story Of Calvin Russell – This Is My Life (SPV Recordings/Columbia)
  • 2004: A Man in Full – The Best of Calvin Russell (Last Call)

Collaborative releases[edit]


  • 1988: The Characters – Act I (Full Blast)


  1. ^ Morris, Christopher (April 3, 2011). "Singer-songwriter Calvin Russell dies". Variety. Retrieved April 4, 2011.
  2. ^ Corcoran, Michael (April 3, 2011). "Memories of Calvin Russell and his crack in time". Retrieved May 11, 2013.

External links[edit]