Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Farther Along - Obituary from Issue #31 Jan-Feb 2001

Moises "Blondie" Calderon

June 26, 1940 - October 23, 2000

No one who has seen Ray Price & the Cherokee Cowboys in the past three decades will forget the band’s pianist, Blondie Calderon. Besides serving as leader and arranger for one of the most respected bands in American popular music, Calderon also traded gibes with Price throughout the show in recent years, and his spirited performance of “El Rancho Grande”, for which Calderon donned a preposterously large sombrero, would inevitably bring down the house. With laughter filling the hall, Blondie would bow and laugh to himself, then slide back behind the piano. He was more than happy to return the spotlight to his boss, though his gentle rhythms and perfect, shimmering solos were ever emerging to take it right back. On October 23, 2000, bound for a show aboard the Cherokee Cowboys’ tour bus, Calderon died of a heart attack. He was 60 years old.

Moises “Blondie” Calderon was born June 26, 1940, in Del Rio, Texas. Calderon began teaching himself piano when he was just a boy; his formal musical training was limited to a few lessons at age 9 and a year of study at San Jose State in California at age 18. By that time, Calderon had become a devotee of Latin jazz, particularly the quintet recordings of pianist George Shearing and his vibraphonist Cal Tjader. In 1959, Calderon’s parents asked him to return to Del Rio to take over Menos Restaurant, the family business since 1936. He agreed on one condition: He wanted to add a bandstand and dance floor to the restaurant. Under his management, Menos was soon featuring performances by Blondie Calderon & His Latin Sextet, beginning a tradition of Tuesday and Thursday night jam sessions (including jazz, boleros, country and pop) that endures at Menos to this day.

Early in 1967, Calderon received his big break when a friend tipped him off that Ray Price, looking to recreate his “Danny Boy” sound on the road, was looking for sidemen. Calderon passed the audition, becoming the Cherokee Cowboys’ vibraphonist. When in the early ’70s Calderon switched to piano, he also assumed responsibilities as Price’s bandleader, arranger and musical partner. In the early ’90s, the pair recorded Los Dos, a Spanish-language album available at the band’s road dates; more recently, Calderon’s piano was an essential ingredient in the half-country, half-big-band-pop sound of Price’s Prisoner Of Love. For nearly three decades, Calderon was the singer’s most trusted collaborator, a Ralph Sharon to his Tony Bennett.

Eventually, Calderon even became a featured part of the act. “We poked fun at each other onstage, the Mexican and the old gringo,” Ray Price says over the phone from his ranch near Perryville, Texas. “A lot of people thought it was in bad taste. But they don’t realize that when he came to work for me there was still signs in south Texas that said ‘Mexicans Not Welcome.’ We were making fun, showing how foolish those old attitudes were.

“He was a great jazz player, he could play anything, and he was my best friend,” Price continues. “You can’t live with a man almost 34 years, and be invited into his family, and not feel a great loss. Mexicans have a word for that [sort of relationship]: Compadre. I was his compadre and I was proud to be it. I really miss him.”

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108


Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Originally Featured in Issue #31 Jan-Feb 2001

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »

From the Blogs

  • The Post-Newport Earthquake: Watkins Family Hour
    Did you feel it? That's what everybody in Los Angeles asks each other whenever a shake or quake rattles and rolls through the valleys and flatlands. Sometimes there's just a release of pressure beneath the crust, and other times it's an up and down jolt that lasts only a second. And then you forget about it. Until the next time.  Sunday night […]
  • Chris Isaak's Life Beyond the Sun
    In 2011, Chris Isaak took the long overdue step of recording an album at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tenn. It wasn't just any album, it was faithful interpretations of classic songs by his musical mentors and heroes: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. It didn’t take much of a leap of imagination to predict that the album would be […]
  • Dave & Phil Alvin & the Guilty Ones – Dakota Jazz Club (Minneapolis, Minn. – July 26, 2014)
    “My brother Dave is a triple threat and I’m so proud of him – singer, songwriter, and guitar player.” That’s what Phil Alvin told a July 26 sellout crowd at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, Minn. The show was winding down but fans were totally pumped as the Alvin brothers exchanged pleasantries and showed no sign of their famed sibling rivalry after Dave […]
  • Celebrating 40 Years of Schoolkids Records: An Interview with Owner Stephen Judge
    This year marks the 40th anniversary of Watergate. That's not really anything to celebrate, it's not an accomplishment, and what's that got to do with music? Nothing. It simply marks the inevitable passage of time. But, 2014 also marks the 40th anniversary of Raleigh, N.C.'s Schoolkids Records, which is an accomplishment and is definitely […]
  • Ray LaMontagne at the Woods at Fontanel (Nashville, Tenn. – July 25, 2014)
    Ray LaMontagne writes great songs and makes great records. And that's certainly no small feat. His live shows, though, while being technically and musically superlative, really don't leave the audience with a whole lot to hang on to other than the technique and the music. There's no personal engagement on LaMontagne's part. It's as i […]
  • Freight Train Boogie Show #264 features new music from Old Crow Medicine Show, Carolina Story, Yvette Landry and The Sweet Potatoes
    FTB Show #264 features the new album by Old Crow Medicine Show called Remedy.  Also new music from Carolina Story, Yvette Landry and The Sweet Potatoes. Here's the iTunes link to subscribe to the FTB podcasts.  Here's the direct link to … […]

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!

Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter