Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Callicott, whose music was notable for his delicate guitar style and rich vocals, spent most of his life here in Nesbit. He began playing blues as a young boy and performed for many years together with fellow guitarist Garfield Akers (c. 1900-1959). They played mostly around the area at informal gatherings and performed in a distinctive local style similar to that of Memphis blues pioneer Frank Stokes and Hernando’s Jim Jackson. In 1929 Jackson arranged for the pair to record for the Brunswick-Balke-Collender corporation of Chicago, which had set up a temporary recording unit at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. Callicott’s recording of “Mississippi Boll Weevil Blues” from that session was unissued, but he played on Akers’ two-part single “Cottonfield Blues,” which was issued on the Vocalion label. The following year they again recorded in Memphis. Vocalion issued “Dough Roller Blues” and “Jumpin’ and Shoutin’ Blues” by Akers, while Brunswick released Callicott’s "Fare Thee Well Blues" and "Traveling Mama Blues" (using the spelling Calicott on the label and Callicutt in company files). Although Callicott gave up performing in the 1940s, Akers was active on the down-home Memphis blues scene of the early ‘50s. Akers, however, never recorded again.
Callicott was born in Nesbit, Mississippi. His "Love Me Baby Blues" has been covered by various artists, e.g. (under the title of "France Chance") by Ry Cooder. Arhoolie Records recorded Callicott commercially in the mid-1960's. Some of his 1967 recordings (recorded by the music historian, George Mitchell) were re-released in 2003, on the Fat Possum record label. His best known recordings are "Great Long Ways From Home" and "Hoist Your Window and Let Your Curtain Down.
He served as a mentor to the guitarist Kenny Brown when Brown was ten years old.
Joe Callicott is buried in the Mount Olive Baptist Church Cemetery in Nesbit, Mississippi. On 29 April 1995 a memorial headstone was placed on his grave arranged by the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund with the help of Kenny Brown and financed by Chris Strachwitz, Arhoolie Records and John Fogerty. Callicott's original marker was a simple paving stone which read simply "Joe". This was subsequently donated by his family to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi. At the ceremony Arhoolie Records presented Callicott's wife Doll with a check for his past royalties.