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AL Caldwell

Al Caldwell Biography
Clinician, Performer, Engineer, Producer,
Musician, Hillbilly, Cultural Nomad
Al Caldwell loves music. Inspired by his music teacher Herman Morgan, Al
learned an array of musical instruments in school. He planned to be a music teacher until
he was encouraged by his college professor, Steve Schenkel at Webster University to be a
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, with Mississippi and Tennessee family ties, Al was
surrounded with R&B and Blues from birth. He started out on a plastic guitar when he
was 5 years old. He began to play clarinet and then moved to trumpet. Inspired by the
music of Stevie Wonder and Bootsy Collins, Al added electric and acoustic bass to a list
of instruments he played in 1976. He also had the privilege of playing bass for Albert
King and Shirley Brown at local blues festivals.
In 1983, Al decided to take the big step and move to New York City. He was
introduced to one of the greats, the Father of multi-string bass, Anthony Jackson, who
later became his mentor. While in New York, Al toured with The Blues Brothers guitarist
“Matt Guitar" Murphy. When the Tour ended in 1985, he auditioned and won a spot in
the orchestra at the famous Playboy Club in New York. In 1986, Al moved back to
St.Louis to start his own band. He named it Alsamad, pronounced (uh-sah-ma). He sang
lead vocals and played bass. It was then that he developed as a songwriter.
He moved back to New York in 1988. Al got a call from Johnny Kemp to play electric
and synth bass for his tour. At that time Johnny Kemp had the Number 1 song in the
country, “Just Got Paid”. Al toured with some of the biggest names in Hip Hop and R&B
on that tour: Heavy D, Salt and Pepper, Big Daddy Cane, Keith Sweat, Rob Base, Tony,
Toni, Tone and Teddy Riley were just a few of the acts that shared the stage. After nine
months on tour, Al returned home to New York and joined Jonathan Butler, a brilliant
new singer from South Africa. He was an R&B singer who also played incredible Jazz
Guitar. He was a huge influence in Al’s career. With Jonathan, Al traveled all over the
world. He played for the King of Swaziland and 70,000 screaming fans on a soccer field.
Jonathan had several hit songs: “ Lies,” “Sarah, Sarah, “ More than Friends” and the jazz
guitar instrumental “7th Ave.” Al stayed with Jonathan until 1991.
Al moved back to St.Louis and studied with Blues legend Oliver Sain. He taught
Al how to be an engineer and producer. Al worked with local talent and developed his
songwriting skills.
He had several top ten hits in St.Louis. He also studied with Perry Emge and
adopted his philosophy of 70’s style substance production. This concept allows you to not
get carried away with all of the bells and whistles of the current technology, and deal
with the substance of the song. Al worked with Folk, Rock, Country, Rap, Jazz and R&B
artist to develop his skills as a producer. Later he gravitated towards Gospel.
In 1997, Al got a phone call from Rob Mathes to play bass synth and electric bass with
Vanessa Williams. Playing for Vanessa Williams was a wonderful opportunity because
her musical vocabulary spread across so many styles. From Broadway to Brazilian, from
Pop to Hip Hop, from Jazz to R&B, she covered it all. There were many performances
with symphonies and guest entertainers such as Yo-Yo Ma and Elmo to name a few. Al
was blessed to play on her “Everlasting Love” and “Silver and Gold” projects. These
CDs featured Brian McKnight, George Benson, and Actor, Director, Poet and Playwright,
Ozzie Davis. Playing for Vanessa afforded Al access to some of the finest venues; for
instance, Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall, and the Hollywood Bowl to name a
few. Al also traveled to Egypt, Japan and China with Vanessa Williams. It was a
wonderful chance to see how true talent is appreciated across the globe.
In 2004, Al was inspired by the movie “Oh Brother Where are Thou?” He bought
a banjo and researched its rich history. He took three lessons and worked on a style of his
own. He loved the banjo styles of Earl Scruggs and Roy Clark, but he had never heard
Funk or R&B represented on a banjo. He started a project named “The Travelin Black
Hillbillys”. The word “Black Hillbilly’s, a named coined by the great Deford Bailey,
should represent the African influence in the music. He named his style “Hootananny
Soul”. Al met Jens Kruger and Greg Deering, which expanded his banjo horizons. Jens
and Greg introduced him to the Electric Banjo. Al converted it to MIDI to trigger
keyboard sounds. He’s also added harmonica to his long list of instruments. His latest
recording, “The Travelin Black Hillbilly” is his best work yet. It’s a combination of
Country and Blues. Though Al is new to Country Music, his heart really is in this project.
Music is like the Earth… “it’s just honest”, he says.
Radial Tonebone/ Deering Banjos/ Genz Benz/ Madison Speakers/ Lizard Spit Guitar
Polish/ Jorg Schroeder/ S.I.T. Strings/ Garry Goodman Strings
Member of:
Local 802 Musicians Union
Baby Al Productions (CEO)
Grammy Voting Member of the Chicago Chapter
Bass Musician Magazine (Staff Writer)
Al Caldwell Performances
The White House
Carnegie Hall
Madison Square Garden
Hollywood Bowl
Scottrade Center
Atlanta Stadium
Tour of Europe – (4 times) Tour of Japan – (4 times)
Tour of South America - (1 time) Tour of South Africa – (1 time)
Television Performances
The Tonight Show David Letterman
Today Show
A&E Christmas Special
PBS White House Memorial Special
The View
Good Morning America
A&E Private Sessions
The Wendy Williams Show
The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show
Showtime At the Apollo
The Bachelorette
2007 Shanghai Special Olympics
Performed With
Vanessa Williams, Vicky Winans
Stanley Turrentin, Oliver Sain
Earth Wind and Fire, Albert King
Luther Vandross, Johnny Kemp
Phyllis Hyman, George Benson
Chuck Mangione, Brian McKnight
Washington National Symphony, Greg Howe
New York Pops Symphony, Shirley Brown
Dallas Symphony, Glenn Jones
St Louis Symphony, Jonathan Butler
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Heather Hedley
Chris Botti, Yo-Yo Ma