Calypsonians in the CommonsPosted by Penny in Articles
The Library of Congress uploads from the Gottlieb Jazz Photos collection are great to look at — and to listen to, with a little assist from Amazon or YouTube. Here’s an example:
The “Portrait of Calypso” series is actually a portrait of calypso’s biggest names in the 1940s, all performing together in New York City. It appears to be from the event that Alan Lomax recorded at New York City Town Hall in 1946, which is available as Calypso at Midnight and Calypso after Midnight from Rounder Select. Those recordings also feature Gerald Clark and his Caribbean Serenaders (visible in the backgrounds of the calypso photos in the Gottlieb set), including the distinctive calypso clarinet of Gregory Felix.
Turning to YouTube for individual performances: Second from the left in the photo above is Patrick MacDonald, aka “MacBeth the Great”; here he is performing “Buy Me a Zeppelin.” In the middle, that’s “The Duke of Iron,” Cecil Anderson (1906-1968); he was noted for his crisp diction, as evident in this recording of “Man Smart, Woman Smarter.” Next to the Duke of Iron, in a cummerbund of looping braid, is Wilmoth Houdini (born Frederick Wilmoth Hendricks, 1896-1973); here’s a 1931 recording of him singing “Black but Sweet.” And on the far right, that’s “Lord Invader,” Rupert Westmore Grant (1915-1961); now hear him singing his best-known composition, “Rum and Coca-Cola.”
I haven’t worked out who the man on the far left is. But the event was well documented, in audio and visuals, so his identity shouldn’t remain a mystery for long.