Born: April 23, 1929 | Died: February 28, 2008 Primary Instrument: Trumpet
Those with a sense of history may remember Calvin Owens for his two long tours of duty with B. B. King, serving as B.B.'s first music director during the 1953-57 affiliation ( the Kent Years) and then as bandleader for King's orchestra from 1978 until 1984. Among the results of their collaboration was a 1983 Grammy Award-winning album called “Blues n Jazz,” for which Owens wrote all the arrangements.
Owens, born in New Orleans Fifth Ward, migrated with his mother to Houston, Texas, where at thirteen he began playing trumpet. Joining a vaudeville show after high school, Owens later met B. B. in 1953 then toured and led his band till 1957, when he returned to Houston. Upon his return, Owens became a songwriter/arranger/session player/A&R rep for the famed Peacock Record Company under Don Robey. During that period, Owens recorded with T-Bone Walker, Amos Milburn, Junior Parker, and David Fathead Newman to name a few.
Owens recorded continually while playing all around the Houston area for many years, refusing to be pigeon-holed as a jazz and blues musician. Owens would later return to touring with B. B. King from 1978 through 1984, notching a Grammy as the bandleader for King on the album “Blues 'n' Jazz.” Owens would then move to Belgium where he stayed and recorded sporadically for a decade before returning to Houston in 1993.
This time, Owens would record not only blues but country music, Spanish music and Hip-Hop. His numerous abilities to fluidly cross between genres can be heard in any number of his subsequent releases. Two recordings in the blues genre garnered him critical acclaim for his solo album, “Ain't Gonna Be Yo' Dog No Mo'” in which Owens is coupled with several younger blues artists and for his bandleader work on his own label, Sawdust Alley Records for “Trudy Lynn with the Calvin Owens Orchestra.” He continued to release records as leader of a dynamic Blues Orchestra.
Owens won several instrumentalist nominations from the BMA for his work on trumpet. He also released the Spanish album, “La Mujer que Cante Blues,” a collaboration with Evelyn Rubio. In 2007, Owens also recorded and arranged a country album with legends Willie Nelson, Ray Price and Johnny Bush.
Diagnosed with liver cancer a few years ago, his health had deteriorated after subsequent surgeries to remove tumors. The surgery which took place weakened his condition from which he never recovered. Calvin Owens passed February 28, 2008.
The Maestro as he was called, has a long recording history and influence that will shine on for years to come.
Source: James Nadal