Disc 1

Page 7

Wilmoth Houdini:

Wilmoth Houdini, probably at Renaissance Ballroom, New York City, July 1947  (William P. Gottlieb Collection of Jazz Photos, Library of Congress). See p. 24.

Page 8

“Roosevelt in Trinidad” (British Pathé, 1936):

Pages 10-14

The Duke of Iron:

NYJA_Trinidad_Calypso_005
The Duke of Iron (center) and his Trinidad Calypso Troubadors, preparing for an engagement at the Pago Pago Club, New York, January 1941. The Duke and his Troubadors had also headlined the first calypso engagement at the Village Vanguard in late 1939. (New York Journal-American Photo Morgue, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Thanks to Linda Briscoe Myers.)

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:

Page 10

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.)

A handbill for the opening of The Calypso Recorders at the Village Vanguard.

Page 12

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.

Page 15

Sir Lancelot sings the “Fort Holland Calypso Song” in I Walked With a Zombie:

Page 16

Sir Lancelot:

A 1950s LP on the Interlude label; stream a track at the blog “Unearthed in the Atomic Attic

Page 17

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.

Page 21

Kevin Burke’s magnificent Rum and Coca-Cola Reader

Page 23

“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.

Page 25

Calypso at Midnight:

Page 26

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.

Page 27

Bold Venture at the Digital Deli and Archive.org

Page 28

Nat King Cole and Jack Costanzo, “Calypso Blues”:

Page 30

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro’s “Sounds of Our Times,” on Emory Cook (The Believer July-August 2012)

Page 31

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.

Lee Sievan, "Calypso Dance, 1940s."  From a series of photos taken by Sievan, probably at the 2d Annual Costume Pre-Halloween Dance, Irving Plaza Ballroom, 26 October 1946.  Gerald Clark and his Caribbean Serenaders provided music, along with MacBeth the Great and Lord Invader. The Pearl Primus Dance Group also performed. Reproduced with the kind permission of the Sievan Estate.
Lee Sievan, “Calypso Dance, 1940s.” From a series of photos taken by Sievan, probably at the Second Annual Costume Pre-Halloween Dance, Irving Plaza Ballroom, 26 October 1946, sponsored by the Calypso Restaurant. Gerald Clark and his Caribbean Serenaders provided music, along with MacBeth the Great and Lord Invader. The Pearl Primus Dance Group with percussionists Cimber and Coker also performed. Reproduced with the kind permission of the Sievan Estate.

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.

Facade of the Calypso Restaurant, 146 MacDougal Street, New York, late 1940s. Courtesy of New York University Archives, Washington Square Park and Washington Square Area Image Collection
Facade of the original Calypso Restaurant, 146 MacDougal Street, New York, late 1940s. Courtesy of New York University Archives, Washington Square Park and Washington Square Area Image Collection.

Page 32

The Blue Angel was the subject of a pictorial feature in the June 1957 issue of Ebony
The Blue Angel was the subject of a pictorial feature in the June 1957 issue of Ebony

Page 33

8ballbugs
Bugs Bunny singing a pseudo-calypso in “8 Ball Bugs” (©Warner Brothers)

The Chiquita Banana Song:

chiquita_banana_sheetmusic_big

Page 36

“…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.

Page 38

“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.

Page 39

Eugene Louis Walcott on Horace Heidt’s show in 1953 and as a student at Winston-Salem (North Carolina) State Teachers College in 1954

Page 40

Lloyd Thomas, “German Calypso”:

Lloyd Thomas publicity photo, ca. 1957 (Collection of Ray Funk)
Lloyd Thomas publicity photos, ca. 1957 (Collection of Ray Funk)

Stay tuned for more.

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