“Roosevelt in Trinidad” (British Pathé, 1936):
The Duke of Iron on New York City’s municpal radio station WNYC, February 1941:
- Read about the Duke’s history on WNYC (he made several appearances on “Adventures in Music” in the spring and summer of 1940, then hosted his own weekly show, which ran through autumn 1941)
- Listen to the entire February 1941 broadcast
- More background and illustrations
The Duke of Iron and Virgin Islands Carnival:
- Judi Shimel, “Carnival Song Can’t Stop the Rain” (St. Thomas Source 23 April 2005)
- Tammy Kramer, “‘Duke of Iron,’ Cecil Anderson Celebrated as St. Thomas Receives a Gift from His Family” (St. Thomas Source 20 April 2005)
Erratum (“…and stayed with the show for its eventual ten-month run”): In fact, Gerald Clark and the Calypso Recorders (a/k/a the Calypso Serenaders), with the Duke of Iron and dancers led by Bill Matons (as “The Calypso Kid”), initially played the Vanguard for ten weeks, from late August through early December. (Read Variety‘s review at The Internet Archive and see the handbill below in context at the Village Vanguard’s 80th Anniversary web page.) The Duke didn’t “join” the show; rather, he was the featured vocalist from the start. When the Recorders were asked back in early 1940, however, MacBeth the Great and Sir Lancelot replaced the Duke, who left to pursue his own projects, many of them with Matons. The second Vanguard run did go for ten months, possibly longer. Houdini joined the act in September 1940; Belle Rosette in December. (In 1941 and 42, Belle Rosette headlined. The Vanguard continued to book calypso periodically throughout the 1940s and 50s.)
Erratum (“That same year the Duke produced a concert of his own at Town Hall…”): The concert in question was actually at Harlem’s 138th Street YWCA, on April 15th, 1945. It featured visiting calypsonians from Trinidad, as did the follow-up “Victory Calypso Concert,” which took place on June 17th at the Park Palace Crystal Ballroom. The Town Hall and BAM programs, advertised as “Authentic Calypso Concerts,” were produced by Gerald Clark and Macbeth, and took place on October 18 and December 7, 1947, respectively. All four events were, like Alan Lomax’s “Calypso at Midnight,” similarly didactic in nature.
Sir Lancelot sings the “Fort Holland Calypso Song” in I Walked With a Zombie:
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, MacBeth’s orchestra often appeared on the marquee with bebop groups, including bands led by Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Cecil Payne, and Fats Navarro, at clubs and dancehalls around greater New York City. Read about MacBeth sharing a bill with Monk in “If chance will have me king, why chance may crown me” at Working for the Yankee Dollar.
Kevin Burke’s magnificent Rum and Coca-Cola Reader
“Although Fitzgerald only returned to Caribbean-inflected music…”: “Stone Cold Dead” wasn’t Fitzgerald’s first foray into West Indian music. As a bandleader (she led the Chick Webb Orchestra for three years under her own name after Webb’s death in 1939), Fitzgerald had recorded an instrumental version of “Sly Mongoose.” The cover is included on the compilation Live at the Savoy 1939-40.
Calypso at Midnight:
- The entire “Calypso at Midnight” concert is available for streaming from the Association for Cultural Equity
- Recordings of the concert, with excellent booklets by Don Hill, John Cowley, and Steve Shapiro, may be purchased on 2 CDs from Rounder Records: Calypso at Midnight | Calypso After Midnight
- Chris Smith reviews the discs for Musical Traditions
SingOut.org has begun an online archive of the People’s Songs Bulletins. As of this writing, Volume 1, Number 6 (containing Lancelot’s letter) has not yet been made available in PDF format.
Nat King Cole and Jack Costanzo, “Calypso Blues”:
Joshua Jelly-Schapiro’s “Sounds of Our Times,” on Emory Cook (The Believer July-August 2012)
The “Calypso Restaurant” menu (from which the box set’s cover art is taken) is ever so slightly out of place here. The Calypso’s heyday was actually the mid- and late 1940s, when its founder, Trinidadian Connie Williams, regularly sponsored dances and costume balls at Irving Plaza and elsewhere in New York.
The basement restaurant itself has a certain legendary mystique: James Baldwin famously waited tables there as a young writer-in-training, and it was a favorite haunt of C.L.R. James during his decade as an “illegal alien” in America. A gathering place for artists, intellectuals, and political radicals in the heart of Village, the Calypso was also a well-known haven for interracial couples. When the block of MacDougal Street on which it stood, just off Washington Square, was razed in 1949 to make way for the new NYU Law School, Williams moved the restaurant first to West 26th Street and then farther south to the corner of MacDougal and Houston before lighting out for San Francisco, where for years she ran another restaurant, Connie’s, and helped birth the Bay Area’s Memorial Day Carnival in the 1970s.
The Chiquita Banana Song:
“…Lord Kitchener, who arrived just as the boom went bust…”
- See “Geoffrey Holder and the ‘Caribbean Calypso Festival,'” pp. 109-10. Apparently this was not Kitchener’s first appearance in New York City, however. In February 1947, with several popular carnival tunes to his name, he was on the bill as part of a highly publicized gala “Afro-West Indian Shango Carnival and Dance” produced by Calypso Musical Enterprises—possibly one of Houdini’s ventures—at Harlem’s Golden Gate Ballroom. Another scheduled part of the night’s festivities was the presentation (by the Trinidad Guardian) of an award for the promotion of West Indian culture to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan, though it is highly unlikely that they were in attendance. A newspaper advertisement for the event is reproduced on p. 24.
“Sonny Rollins…recorded an instrumental tribute entitled ‘Duke of Iron'”:
A 19-minute live workout of the tune broadcast on German television may also be viewed—in HD, no less—on YouTube. For more on Rollins, see pp. 81-82.
Lloyd Thomas, “German Calypso”:
Stay tuned for more.