Trent Callicutt – banjo picker/trucker dealing with COVID-19

The spring of 2020 will be remembered for the coronavirus and the stay at home orders. This pandemic has affected many of us in one of two ways: we are either an essential worker or we are out of a job. Trent Callicutt of Asheboro, NC, falls into both categories.

For more than a decade, the thirty-year-old has driven an 18-wheeler for R&H Motor Lines, and is still making daily runs with new guidelines. He is also a musician who normally performs on weekends filling in with a couple of professional bands, but that part-time job has come to an abrupt halt.

“We (the motor line) handle storage trailer rentals. I haul locally (day trips). Today, I took a load of flooring to Wilmington to a job site. I picked up an empty trailer and took it to Sanford. Every day is different.”

The next morning the young trucker was headed with a load to Virginia. His work remains steady, but altered.

“With this virus, the hours have lightened up. I used to work 10-11 hour days. Now it is more like 8 or 9. I didn’t drive Friday and that never happens unless it’s a holiday. Other places are closing and that affects us. Up north they’re not receiving (shipments).” 

R&H Motor Lines is a family business. Callicutt’s uncle orchestrates the dispatching of 2200 trailers to a dozen drivers within the company.

“The pandemic makes everything take longer. A lot of places have a reception tent. They take your temperature. (A fever screening device is aimed at forehead.) You have to fill out a form every time you arrive. They want to know if you’ve been out of the country in the last 14 days and if you’ve been around anybody that has been infected. They get your cell number, the purpose of your visit, the company name. There’s hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes, and you’re not allowed in the building. You can’t touch the intercom button until you’ve washed your hands.

Luckily, we don’t have any in the (R&H Motor Lines) company that’s been sick. Nobody’s gotten it.” 

There is one up side now.

“It’s nice driving. There’s no traffic on the roads, especially around big cities like Greensboro, Charlotte, and Raleigh. You would think it was Christmas morning.”

Callicutt feels for those who have lost employment. His sister is out of work. His school teacher wife, Rachel, sits in an empty classroom. Her students aren’t there. She assembles weekly work packets for parents to pick up and complete with their children at home.

“We deliver to furniture companies, but four businesses (that we serve) have been shut down. There’s no need (for me) to haul materials to build furniture frames. A lot of the workers are paid on production. They have no insurance, no benefits. I feel bad for people like that. It hasn’t affected me like it has other people.”

The young driver does have an underlying health condition that could leave him compromised. He has to be careful in his travels.

“I have asthma pretty bad. When the season changes, it flares up.”

The North Carolina native is also a bluegrass musician who frequently played gigs on weekends, but not anymore.

“Lots of the shows have been canceled. I was supposed to be a judge at  Highfalls Fiddlers’ Convention. I was going to see IIIrd Tyme Out in Burlington.”

“On a fill-in basis I was supposed to play with Alan Bibey and Grasstowne the end of March. I play two days at a festival in North Dakota in June with Kenny and Amanda. That may get canceled. I don’t have but three or four things lined up. It’s all up in the air. I was looking forward to it. I get excited about picking,” the banjoist admitted.

Playing since he was 12, Callicutt took banjo lessons from Asheboro music teacher, Tim Moon, and excelled. 

“I played with Tim’s band, True Grass, and I had a band in high school called One Way Track.”

During his senior year, Callicutt had his sights set on majoring in music at Western Carolina University. That fall the aspiring musician attended a music festival where one of his favorite groups, Kenny and Amanda Smith, was performing. 

“I took them a cassette tape (of my banjo picking). That was in the fall of 2007. I had completely dismissed it, then in January 2008 I got an email from Amanda. They wanted me to audition.”

He drove to Meadows of Dan, VA where the musical couple was living at the time, and picked with them for a couple of hours. They invited him to play a show with them in Florida.

“They offered me the job on the way back. I told them let me talk to my parents and pray about it.”

So the young man embarked on a music career rather than a college career. 

“It was a dream come true. I was the perfect age, not married. I did a lot of flying then. I played in every state, but Hawaii and Alaska. I’ve played in Canada multiple times, and we did a nine day tour of Ireland.

“I was very fortunate. I can’t believe as a kid from Asheboro that I got to do all that.”

When the Smiths relocated to east of Nashville, the travel became too much for the banjo picker. 

“It got to the point that I would only be home 24-36 hours then turn around and leave again.”

Having worked around his family’s trucking business since his teens, he decided if he was going to travel it was going to be in a truck. With local clientele, Callicutt could sleep in his own bed at night. 

With the current world status, that appears to have been a good choice. Callicutt is working and drawing a paycheck whereas many of his musician friends are not.

“I live in front of our (trucking) business. I walk out the door and I’m at work.”

However, he misses the music.

“I enjoy playing,” Callicutt concluded. Hopefully, that aspect of his life will return soon.

Share this:

About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.