Cali was a self-taught player of the violin, mandolin, guitar and tenor
banjo. He began his performance career at the age of 11 as a soloist with
his school orchestra playing the violin. A year later, he was a
professional, making four dollars a week with the Faust Opera Company in the
Rome Theater. Two years after that he toured the United States and Canada as
a violinist in the Neopolitan Trio. When he was 14 years of age he was
invited by Thomas Alva Edison to record the tune "Ja-Da."
As Fox Trot became very popular John
joined Vic Bareta's orchestra at Luna Park in Coney Island. This was in 1915
and it was also the time that John saw the possibilities of the tenor banjo
and began learning the instrument. Within months he was the featured
banjoist in the orchestra of Vincent Lopez.
Four years later he joined the
Vincent Lopez Orchestra, and was the tenor soloist. He also worked a lot
with radio stars. In the early days of radio he served as the banjo-picking
half of the "Gold Duster Twins." Since the early 1920s Cali played and
recorded with most of the New York jazz bands. He recorded guitar duets with
Tony Gottuso and also made several LP records in the 1950s and 1960s. In his
later years John was the mandolinist and guitarist on call for
the Metropolitan Opera Company and the New York Philharmonic - Symphony Orchestra.
He retired after the death of his wife in 1971 and died at the age of 86.
Banjo On My Knee Mercury/Wing
The Banjo Minstrel Man Mercury MG 20357
Honky Tonk Piano And A Hot Banjo -
with Lou Stein
Mercury SR 60151
Banjo Polka Jamboree - John Cali and his Unquiet 6
AND THE BANJO'S SING
Golden Crest Records CR 3016
Jazz Banjo Index