Leavy (April 20, 1940 – June 6, 2010) was an African American soul
blues and electric blues singer and guitarist. He had a hit single in 1970,
when 'Cummins Prison Farm' peaked at number 40 on the US Billboard R&B
chart, and stayed in the chart for five weeks. More locally, it was number
one on the chart of the Memphis, Tennessee based radio station, WDIA.
Later in his life, Leavy became the first person indicted under the 1988
Drug Kingpin Law, and he subsequently died in prison.
Calvin James Leavy was born in Scott, Pulaski County, Arkansas, United
States. He was the youngest son of fifteen children, and started singing in
his church choir. By his adolescence, Leavy sang with various gospel
ensembles in Little Rock. He formed the Leavy Brothers Band in 1954, and
they were popular locally, before relocating to Fresno, California. By the
end of 1968, they moved back to Little Rock, and played at local clubs.
Through this work, Leavy was offered recording time in E&M Studios in Little
Rock. As well as a cover version of 'Tennessee Waltz', the group recorded
the song 'Cummins Prison Farm', which was written by Bill Cole. Leavy used
the prison experiences of one of his brothers to expand the lyrical content.
It was originally issued on Soul Beat Records, and underwent subsequent
national distribution via Blue Fox Records, that label's first release.
'Cummins Prison Farm', reached number 40 on the Billboard R&B chart.
Recorded in one take, it was one of 27 blues based songs that reached the
R&B chart in 1970.
Leavy recorded further singles for Acquarian, Soul Beat, Downtown and
Messenger Records. These included 'Nothing But Your Love', 'Give Me a Love
(That I Can Feel)' and 'Goin’ to the Dogs Pt. 1'. In addition, the band made
some recordings for the Arkansas Bicentennial Blues Project, which were
archived at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. They also appeared in
1977 at the Beale Street Music Festival, before disbanding. Forming Calvin
Leavy and the Professionals, he and his new outfit remained popular locally.
They recorded 'Is It Worth All (That I'm Going Through)', 'Big Four', 'What
Kind of Love', 'Free From Cummins Prison Farm', and the prophetic 'If Life
Last Luck Is Bound to Change'. However, further national chart success
eluded him. Nevertheless, he maintained a strong fan base in the South, and
his records often appeared on local jukeboxes.
Cummins Prison, both the inspiration for Leavy's only national hit record,
and his later 'residence'
In 1991, Leavy was charged with making payments to an undercover police
officer, and was convicted in July 1992, of multiple drug related offences.
He was sentenced to life plus twenty-five years. His imprisonment started at
Cummins Prison. By 2004, his sentence was commuted to seventy-five years.
In June 2010, Leavy died at the age of 70 in the Jefferson Regional Medical
Center in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, having been eligible for parole in eighteen