David “Fox” Caldwell was born on December 7, 1927, in Fort Smith, Arkansas, but was raised in Kansas. He earned his nickname “Fox” due to his stark red hair (which has long since turned white) and blue eyes, the result (Caldwell claims) of Indian blood.
Caldwell is a World War II veteran, who served as an underage soldier in the Pacific Theater and was present during the Allied occupation of Japan. In 1950 Caldwell was stationed in Germany for several years, and has vivid memories of the aftermath of the Holocaust and the fall of Nazi Germany. In 1954, Mr. Caldwell returned to the United States and moved to Holly Springs. During the late 1950s and 1960s, the outspoken Caldwell was an integral figure in the local Civil Rights movement. Caldwell, who is a proponent of black-owned businesses, opened numerous stores in town catering to the large African American population. In addition to selling cigarette, pinball and Coca-Cola machines, Caldwell began selling records in many of his stores.
Mr. Caldwell opened his Aikei Pro’s Records Shop around 1960, on Center Street in an old car garage. “Aikei Pro’s” is in fact a clever anagram of the original owners of the building, the Walker Bros. In the over 50 years he has been in business, Caldwell has met Elvis Presley, Isaac Hayes, B.B. King and David Porter, among many others. Caldwell was close personal friends of local bluesmen Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside, the fathers of Hill Country Blues. Mr. Caldwell was instrumental in the formation of the Mississippi Blues Trail, and a trail marker is located near his store.
Though some might consider Mr. Caldwell’s store a hoarder’s paradise, filled to the brim with records, old parts and other assorted junk, Caldwell’s still-brilliant mind is able to recall all of his claimed 90,000 records and cassette tapes. Caldwell receives many hundreds of visitors every year, from all across the world. Though he doesn’t keep regular hours and the record store doesn’t even have a phone, this local legend can be found sitting outside his store on Blues Alley on most days, welcoming both locals and travelers.
I love Mr. Caldwell. He’s an amazing, smart, kind, lovely man and friend.
Wow! I never knew the story about Mr. Caldwell. My Mother and I used to visit Aikei Pro’s when I was a little girl. I will always remember it as a very important part of growing up in Holly Springs. Thank you for sharing his story.