Angie did this interview in 2006 just 2 years before Cal Ballantine Baldi passed unexpectedly.
“TEENAGE BOOGIE WOOGIE GENIUS
Calvin The Hoy Hoy Boy”
Interview with Angela Mack (C) 2006
ANGELA: So you are a 13 year old who knows more about prewar blues than most adults do. What got you interested in this music?
CALVIN: Well, at first I listened to whatever my parents where playing on the radio. (Mostly 1960s and 1970s rock ‘n’ roll.) And as I grew older and began to develop my own tastes in music I heard Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” on Cleveland’s local oldies stattion, fortunately my dad had a best of Bill Haley album so I listened to it and loved it. From then on I began to research the influences of 50s rock performers (which were R&B musicians for the most part) and so I began to look up the influences of those such as Big Joe Turner and Louis Jordan, I saw that their influence list went two ways, either jazz or country blues. Since I had already heard some jazz such as Jelly Roll Morton and The Andrews Sisters, I decided to try to fine some pre-war blues to listen to.
Like many others, the first pre-war blues album I ever listened to was “The Complete Recordings Of Robert Johnson” since my dad owned a copy that he didn’t listen to, the next step I took in listening to pre-war blues was buying an album of Robert Johnson’s influences. (Kokomo Arnold, Hambone Willie Newbern, Son House, Willie Brown, Charlie Patton, Etc.) and I’ve been listening and researching since
ANGELA: You can boogie woogie on the piano like a musical genius. How did you learn to play?
CALVIN: Well, when I began listening to some Chicago Blues (Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Otis Spann, Etc.) I really noticed the pianists and decided that I wanted to play like that. So I sat down at the old upright, put my headphones on, and with Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” Blaring, I tryed to play along. And since then I’ve been practicing and playing every day
ANGELA: What is it about prewar blues that you like so much?
CALVIN: I’ve been a history buff for a while and the history of nearly anything fascinates me, but I ended up Loving the music too.
ANGELA: Do you enjoy listening to the music that kids your age are listening to? Why or why not?
CALVIN: I can’t stand rap, hip-hop, modern rock, punk, or pretty much anything post-1980 that isn’t blues. Rock (and roll) these days, in my opinion, sounds whiney, and evidently it has to be loud rather than good and technical to appeal to the modern listener.
ANGELA: What are your dreams as a musician? As an adult?
CALVIN: Well, my two career plans at the moment are musician and music historian.
ANGELA: Do your peers know what kind of music you are passionate about? What do they have to say?
CALVIN: Yes they know, most of them either say nothing or something negative with their only supporting reason being that it is “old” (But they think a song recorded in 2005 is old)
I do have one friend with good taste, he listens to Count Basie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Etc. and can appreciate the blues too.
ANGELA: Do you have a CD available? If so, where can people purchase it? If not, do you plan on recording soon?
CALVIN: Nope, the closest I’ve come to recording was when I spoke with Nick Amster at Borders and he said he’d like to listen to me and possibly record me, but that was about a month ago.
ANGELA: Do you write originals or play covers? If covers, whose music do you play?
CALVIN: I generally base my own songs of others so
in a sense, they are covers, but just about everyone borrows a riff or two from someone.
ANGELA: Do you attend a school? What is your opinion of the music education you are taught there?
CALVIN: I attend a middle school and our band classes are decent, we have a somewhat competent director. We also have a Jazz Band but, we play more rock songs than jazz.
ANGELA: Should American schools focus less on the classical composers such as Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart and focus more on the music that originated in America?
CALVIN: Possibly, I can appreciate the talent and musical geniuse of these men, but I sort of like to be unique, so if everyone else knew about the blues I would still like it but still, I like to be uniqe.
ANGELA: Who are your favorite boogie woogie piano players?
CALVIN: Piano Red, Memphis Slim, Roosevelt Sykes, Cripple Clarence Lofton, Speckled Red, Big Joe Duskin, Charlie Spand, Otis Spann, Albert Ammons, Jimmy Yancey, Peetie Wheatstraw, Meade Lux Lewis, Pete Johnson, Amos Milburn, And So Many More…
ANGELA: If you could own only one CD, what would it be?
CALVIN: Hoo boy that’s a hard one, probably My 4-Disc Piano Red Boxed set, but if I can only have one CD from it, I would pick the second.
ANGELA: What is it that draws you to this music that was recorded so long ago?
CALVIN: Just the way it sounds, I love it. And a little mystery or obscurity is always good. (Willie Brown, Henry Sloan, Hambone Willie Newbern, Bo Weavil Jackson, Etc.)
ANGELA: What influence have the Paramount recordings and artists had on your life?
CALVIN: Charlie Spand has had a big influence on my style of playing and the style of piano I listen to. I tend to look for barrelhouse boogie more often now. And of course all of the greats, whether they play piano or not have had a HUGE influence on my performing. (Son House, Bo Weavil Jackson, Charlie Patton, Tommy Johnson, Roosevelt Sykes, Bumble Bee Slim, Etc.)
ANGELA: Do you think that the blues is experiencing a revival and why?
CALVIN: Perhaps a small one, since I have run into about 4 or 5 other teenagers who listen to the blues.
And The Blues In The Schools should do quite a bit for this music