preview_bcd16947 - page 8

Lion and Atilla's 1934 trip also included a rare chance to
appear on actor/crooner Rudy Vallee's national radio program,
'The Fleischmann’s Yeast Hour,' one of the most popular shows
of its day. The shortwave version of the broadcast was heard –
faintly – all the way back in Trinidad, where the pair were
greeted as conquering heroes upon their return. Two years
later, they memorialized their triumph in the duet
Guests Of
Rudy Vallee
[Track 4]
. In subsequent years, visiting calypso-
nians' hits included Atilla's
Roosevelt In Trinidad
[Track 3]
which commemorated the American president's 1936 visit (Ry
Cooder would revive the tune decades later), and Caresser's
Edward The VIII
[Track 2]
, which narrated the scan-
dal of the British monarch's abdication in order to marry the
American divorcee Wallis Simpson. (
"It was love, love
alone/That caused King Edward to leave the throne,"
the refrain.)
The Trinidadians' successive trips included further radio
appearances and nightclub engagements, some of which were
quite lengthy. And with help from such influential figures as
Vallee and Village Vanguard owner Max Gordon, calypso caught
the ears of white Americans, first in New York City and then –
thanks to the Gotham-based national media – beyond. In an
August 1938 article entitled
'Calypso Boom,'
'Time' magazine
described the growing interest in calypso records in some of
the country's more "civilized" precincts:
For nearly five years, C
and D
have recorded Ca-
lypso songs in Trinidad, but U.S. enthusiasts could obtain
discs only by hunting for them in New York's Harlem. By last
week, with four midtown Manhattan shops (Liberty, Center,
Marconi and Symphony) carrying them in stock, Calypsos
sold well to an eager public.
Indeed, these discs sold briskly to both West Indians and
whites, particularly those who had ventured into the Village
Vanguard or the Ruban Bleu to hear the The Lion, Atilla The
Hun, Lord Caresser, Lord Executor, King Radio, and the Growl-
ing Tiger, calypsonians who had made their names in the tents
in Trinidad and were now taking their talents
"to the world,"
as Tiger put it. Because of visa limitations and other practical
matters, however, these visiting performers could not stay
indefinitely, and the émigré bandleader Gerald Clark turned to
local sources in order to develop a more reliable pool of state-
side talent. Before long, clubgoers and record buyers were also
enjoying the performances of expatriate Trinidadians who had
built reputations back home, but who cannily developed
singing styles and stage personae designed to appeal to Amer-
icans unfamiliar with Trinidadian culture. In this group were
the Duke Of Iron, MacBeth The Great, and Sir Lancelot, who in
the late 1930s and early 40s joined the already well-
established Wilmoth Houdini. Through their joint efforts,
calypso established a foothold in the North American music
1,2,3,4,5,6,7 9,10,11
Powered by FlippingBook