His Mother was one of 12 children most of which were musically inclined. His grandmother, mother, aunts and uncles performed a family gospel vocal group so young Calvin was exposed to performance at an early age. He can still remember his Grandmother encouraging him to sing for the neighbors once she realized his talent. His singing and “preaching” for the neighborhood earned him the nickname “Deacon” later shortened to “Deke.”
He also sang along with his family at the Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church in the small town of Paxville, right outside of Sumter. As with many other artists, he received his earliest influences from the gospel songs sung in the church choir.
He received his first guitar at the age of 4. It was his “big” Christmas gift from his Mom and he received one every Christmas after.
Even though his family was a church-going one, his home was full of the sounds of the soul artists of the day. His Mother played 45’s on the record player as Calvin was introduced to artists such as Al Green, Elvis Presley, Wilson Pickett, Ray Charles and Willie Nelson.
After his Father’s death when Calvin was 5, his Mother worked out of the home to provide for her boys and Calvin was left in the care of his Grandmother, Eliza. She had a major impact in his upbringing and he patterned his life around her kindness and compassion. He frequently quotes her teachings and one of his favorites is “if a man gives you stones, you give him bread.” She saw his talent as a gift from God and supported him by showcasing young Calvin at church. When the other children recited their Easter speeches, she told Calvin that his was going to be sung. He can still remember the other kids sitting on the front row of the church making faces at him to try to mess him up, but they could not because he did not want to disappoint his Grandmother.
Calvin began his formal musical training at 11 playing various horns, including the trombone, baritone brass and trumpet for the middle and high school bands.
At the age of 15, Calvin started playing with stage bands with older artists who recognized his talent. After getting assurances from the guys that her son would be safe and get his school work done his Mother allowed him to join his first band, “Black Frost.”
These older, more experienced artists took Calvin under their tutelage and so his performance career began.
After high school Calvin attended South Carolina State College where he joined the “Marching 101” and played with a college band called “The Brotherman Orchestra,” playing local clubs and opening for Bob Hope at The Township Auditorium. Calvin left college after two years and returned to Sumter.
By then his reputation as a musician was growing and he caught the attention of one of his Father’s good friends, Bill Pinckney. Bill asked Calvin to tour with “Bill Pinckney and The Original Drifters.” Calvin played brass and was lead singer for the band that opened for and backed The Drifters. The group traveled as far west as Las Vegas, and all points between including the Bahamas.
After moving from Sumter to Charleston in the late 80’s Calvin joined a newly formed band called “Room Service” and served as a back-up singer for Harriel Jackson, a former Drifter.
Once he left that band he was bassist and singer for various Charleston bands including, “Juke Joint Johnny” and “Nature Boy Nick Pappas” performing numerous club dates around town.
He became the lead singer for “The Educators Band and Show,” a local R&B band opening for Betty Wright, Bobby Blue Band, BB King, Dennis Edwards (former lead singer of The Temptations), Tyrone Davis, Gwen McCrae and William Bell to name a few.
In the late 90’s Calvin formed his own trio, which expands into a five-piece band as needed, playing numerous weddings, festivals, gallery openings and galas.
Calvin has also established himself as a solo artist by playing at numerous clubs in and around Charleston’s busting downtown nightlife. As a solo artist he has opened for Joe Cocker, Clarence Carter, General Johnson and The Chairman of the Board, The Tams, as well as performing at the Spoleto Arts Festival.
He has taken his band and solo act on the road to North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, New York, Texas and the Grand Cayman Islands.
Calvin’s unique vocal style mixes a blend of gospel and blues with a touch of rock in what can be called captivating. He is a balladeer extraordinaire but is versatile as a band that can rock the house.
He is a self-taught acoustic guitarist with a completely unique style of play admired by local and national artists.
Calvin’s philosophy is to provide music for the soul with a party beat!