GRAMMY-winning musician, vocalist, songwriter and producer Jorge Calderon has been an integral part of the Southern California music scene since he first came to Los Angeles in 1969. He’d been playing around New York City with his band for a couple of years before that, and headed out west in search of something new. Early on in L.A., Calderon met producer Keith Olsen, who at the time was working out of Sound City with Curt Boettcher (The Association, The Beach Boys).
“I told him I had some songs I’d like to demo, and he invited me to come to his house to play them,” recalls Calderon. “When I arrived, there were two people there, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. They were doing the same thing, playing songs. That’s how we met, I had my audition in front of them.” Calderon ended up connecting the duo with the drummer that played on the Buckingham Nicks album (produced by Olsen, among his now hundreds of credits), and also did his own demos with Olsen, which led to his Warner Bros. deal for City Music (1976), produced by Russ Titelman.
Around that time, Calderon also met Warren Zevon, and through him, Jackson Browne. He decided to play and tour with Zevon and others, rather than making another album and continuing on the singer-songwriter path. In the decades since his last solo release—in addition to his collaborations with Zevon and Browne—Calderon has been heard on scores of classic albums, contributing bass, guitar, and vocals. He was a founding member of David Lindley’s band El Rayo-X, and has also toured the world playing with Ry Cooder, Leonard Cohen, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and J.D. Souther.
Calderon never stopped writing songs, though. With new solo material set for release on Inside Recordings, the independent label founded by Jackson Browne and his management team, Calderon picks up where he left off years ago, beginning a new chapter in his story as a key player in the L.A. music scene.
Calderon has been developing material with an eye toward a new solo album since finishing his last collaboration with the late Warren Zevon, 2003’s The Wind. Calderon produced and co-wrote the project, which received five 2004 GRAMMY nominations (including “Song of the Year” for “Keep Me In Your Heart”) and two wins—“Best Contemporary Folk Album” and “Best Rock Vocal Performance, Duo or Group” for “Disorder In The House,” Zevon’s duet with Bruce Springsteen.
For Calderon, making The Wind was ultimately a poignant coda to a deep friendship and creative bond dating back to Zevon’s self-titled 1976 debut LP and the 1978 breakthrough Excitable Boy, as well as three decades of L.A.-centric music history. Zevon was diagnosed with terminal cancer as work on the record began, and he passed away just just a few weeks after its release. “We trusted each other very much, that’s why he felt comfortable enough to do that album,” says Calderon. “We knew each other so well, we could dig in and write songs about mortality.”
Calderon’s musical and personal journey to Los Angeles began more than 3,300 miles away in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He grew up on Latin music from Cuba and Puerto Rico, and calypso from other islands, but when he first heard rock ‘n roll—on records people brought back from the States, and through powerful AM stations like WABC and WNBC that reached Puerto Rico—he fell in love. The first record he owned was a 78 of “Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard, and he went on to form a band that played rock ‘n roll, R&B and blues.
After great success at festivals and clubs in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, Calderon’s band relocated to New York City. For most of 1967, the group had a residency at a popular Manhattan club, and then landed a record deal. “We heard it on the radio a few times,” remembers Calderon, “but that was that.” Shortly after moving to Southern California, the band broke up and dispersed. Calderon stayed, connecting with the constellation of friendships and creative alliances that has produced—and continues to generate—so much remarkable music.