Calypsonians in the Commons

Posted 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:

Portrait of Calypso, between 1938 and 1948

Portrait of Calypso, between 1938 and 1948

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.

2 Responses to “Calypsonians in the Commons”

  1. Michael Eldridge Says:

    Hello Penny,

    I was working on a piece on MacBeth the Great today and thanks to you came across the Gottlieb calypso photos, which I hadn’t known were online. Wonderful–many thanks.

    I suspect that the man at left is George Anderson (Cecil Anderson’s brother), who performed–briefly?–under the sobriquet “Count of Monte Cristo.” I also suspect that these photos were taken not at the “Calypso at Midnight” concert at Town Hall, but rather at a calypso monarch competition that was staged at the Renaissance Ballroom in February 1947. The competitors were Houdini, Duke of Iron, MacBeth, and Count of Monte Cristo.,6017828

  2. Penny Says:

    Glad to point you to the Gottlieb photos, they’re pretty amazing. Thank you right back, for the further details and the better guess at the photo’s occasion!

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