An associate of Robert Johnson, Calvin Frazier never attained the notoriety of other Johnson protégés like Johnny Shines, Robert Jr. Lockwood or Honeyboy Edwards, but his scant recorded legacy reveals a performer whose take on prewar-era blues is as unique and distinctive as any in the canon. Born February 16, 1915 in Osceola, Arkansas, Frazier began his career performing alongside his brothers, and in the company of Shines, he traveled to Helena, Arkansas in 1930; there they met Johnson, and together the three men slowly journeyed north to Detroit, where they sang hymns on area gospel broadcasts. Upon returning south, Frazier and Johnson also joined with drummer Peck Curtis in a string-band combo. However, in 1935 Frazier was wounded in a Memphis shootout which left another man dead; he fled back to Detroit, marrying Shines' cousin and settling into a life of quiet anonymity. Apart from gigs supporting the likes of Big Maceo Merriweather, Rice Miller and Baby Boy Warren, he resurfaced in 1938 long enough to cut a session for folklorist Alan Lomax; while the spectre of Johnson undeniably haunts renditions of songs including "Lily Mae" (a rewrite of "Honeymoon Blues") and "Highway 51" (lifted from "Dust My Broom"), Frazier's incomprehensible vocals, menacingly surreal lyrics and exquisite slide guitar are the hallmarks of a total original. He did not record again until a 1951 date with T.J. Fowler's jump band, and entered the studio one last time in 1954 with Warren and Miller; Frazier continued performing in the Detroit area to little notice until his death on September 23, 1972.
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