Terry Callier - on Acid Jazz Records

Terry Callier

Terry Callier

Terry Callier’s signing to Acid Jazz was a story of dogged persistence with a happy ending. Not much was known about Callier at the time; his Look At Me Now and Ordinary Joe singles had caused much stirrings on the mod and northern/modern soul scenes, but the track that was making London’s clubland sit up and take notice was a 12” single release from back in 1982 on the Erect label out of Chicago called I Don’t Want To See Myself (Without You). With a fat gospel intro and a three minute sax solo it was an unlikely choice for the newly turned-on acid house generation but in its favour, the eight minute opus was frenetically fast and just dripping with sultry soul in spades. Originally picked up as an anthem by Nicky Holloway’s Special Branch DJs, by ’88 the single was changing hands for 40 quid a pop and had crossed over to just about everywhere (Boy George even recorded a version, never released and sadly lost in the mists of time)…It was about then that Eddie Piller decided to track Terry Callier down. It had been label policy to include a healthy percentage of oldies in its roster and with his mod heritage and current iconic status, Callier was considered the perfect choice.It proved excruciatingly difficult however. From Acid Jazz’s two room office just off the Hackney Road, Piller started off by contacting the US music industry organisations. That drew a blank. No one had an address or a contact and Callier hadn’t been a member of any of them for many years. Next up he contacted Jerry Butler. Butler had written Ordinary Joe for him and had also published some of Callier’s material. If royalties were still being generated, then surely Butler’s people would have his details? Sadly, they hadn’t heard from him either. It transpired that since about 1983, Callier had just dropped off the radar…The helpful secretary at Jerry Butler’s office heard that he might well have moved to LA – this was wrong though and added a further three weeks of following dead end leads to the project.Piller was not to be put off and eventually resorted to calling American directory enquiries which, in practical terms, meant half an hour each evening calling different US phone companies. At that time, there were no national or even state-wide phone directories. Instead, each separate company had a different listing for individual areas. Not even cities. It was after three weeks worth of calls that he finally got lucky. A Terrence Orlando Callier had been found in a random suburb of Chicago; the address and number were handed over and after a quick nip of scotch, Piller took a deep breath and called the number.‘Hi, can I speak to Terry please?’ The young girl on the other end of the line went quiet for a couple of seconds before replying ‘Sorry, no one called Terry lives here, I think you must have a wrong number’ ‘I’m actually looking for Terry Callier…’ click – the line went dead. Piller was sure something wasn’t quite right about the call and phoned back. Again, the receiver was immediately put down. This seemed most odd so Piller decided to keep calling over the next couple of weeks. Half a dozen calls later and for some unexplained reason the young girl – by now increasingly irritated – relented and asked Piller to stay on the line. A couple of minutes later a softly spoken man came on the phone and said; ‘This is Terry Callier, my daughter says that if I don’t take your call there is a realistic possibility that you will just keep calling, so yes, this is me and what can I do for you?’‘Well, it’s like this…’ Eddie explained that he was a massive fan and that Terry had an unexpected underground hit in the UK, would he be interested in coming to London for a gig and for Acid Jazz to release his I Don’t Want To See Myself single? Terry was reluctant. He had turned his back on the music industry back in the early 80s following unexpected family issues, had retrained with computers, established himself at Chicago University and devoted himself to bringing up his daughter. He genuinely wasn’t interested. Period.After such a long search, Eddie Piller was not to be put off and eventually his persistence paid dividends when Terry agreed to visit London with his daughter and perform a gig at the legendary 100 Club, more as a holiday than anything else; if it went well, he’d think about allowing Acid Jazz to release the legendary ‘lost’ single.Needless to say, the gig was massively over-subscribed and Terry was treated as a returning hero. He was amazed at the reaction and that the crowd seemed to know of the words to all of his songs. After an extremely emotional night, Callier decided to give the music industry one last try. Soon after Acid Jazz re-released I Don’t Want To See Myself (Without You) which went on to sell 10,000 copies and provided a platform for Terry to record his first album for over ten years. The international success that had eluded him all though the 60s and 70s was finally his by right and Terry Callier became a soul-jazz icon to a completely new generation. A status he still holds today…

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