The Roaring Lion:
Roaring Lion (Hubert Charles) Rafael Arias Cairi Llama de Leon (1908-1999) was born in the Caura Mountains, Brasso Caparo – North East Trinidad in 1908. As Lion himself puts it; “I was born into humble means”. Born out of wedlock, he had a turbulent childhood. Early in his life, Mrs Charles “was his “adopted” mother – a lady he loved very much but unfortunately she died when he was still rather young. Lion also spent some time at an orphan home but abandonded it at a tender age due to harsh treatment. Later he was “adopted” by Mother Najeeran Khan from San Fernando. Lion’s maternal mother’s surname was “de Leon” a name which he carried later in in life.
Just to put some perspective on Lion’s life, he was born just before World War 1, he experienced the Great Depression of the 1930’s which was followed by the World War 2. In addittion one must not forget that he lived most of his life in Trinidad during the British Colonial era. These were all tumultuous, epic and difficult times during the last century.
Lion had no more than Primary School education but he was an ambitious, intelligent, charismatic, handsome lad, who excelled at school. His love for writing and music started from childhood. He made his first “professional stage” appearance in 1927, competing against recognized calypsonians and winning several competitions that year. Lion went on to be a leading entertainer, innovator, trendsetter, songwriter, composer, pioneer and Ambassador for calypso and Trinidad & Tobago.
In 1933, Lion won the prize offered by Y. De Lima & Co. at Victory Tent and was one of three calypsonians selected to participate on a pioneer tour to Grenada, St. Vincent and Barbados. Atilla and King Radio were the other two selected. (Lord Beginner might have been one of the Calypsonians on this trip) Rahamut & Sons from San Fernando were the sponsors of that trip and it was the first time that calypsonians had ever received financial backing to travel abroad with pre-arranged shows and media planned in advance, etc. Lion wrote a calypso commemorating that trip. Its called “Friends Of Barbados” and was recorded in 1934. Lion states that this visit to Barbados was documented in the Barbados news papers in 1933.
Lion was proclaimed Monarch that year. In those days, a Monarch was hailed or crowned by his peers. “The Monarch competition, which TUCO adheres to at present, originated in 1939. It was then called the “Grand Calypso Competition” and it did not trump the traditional Monarch titles of the day. One can perhaps say that from 1939 onwards, urban commercial interests were in conflict with traditional calypso Monarch competition norms, and eventually urban interests won. Lion’s popular song that year was Soccuyant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNkSW99Mt_I
1934 : In March 1934, Eduardo Sa Gomes the Trinidad agent for Brunswick Records sent Lion and Atilla the Hun to record in New York City. This event was one of the defining moments in calypso history. While Belasco and Houdini and others had recorded calypsos before in the USA, this was the first trip for calypsonians based in Trinidad to travel to New York on contract to record, and their success proved to be the start of a series of annual trips by select calypsonians. Within the next eight years, artistes like Lord Executor, Growling Tiger, Lord Caresser, Lord Invader, The Growler, Lord Beginner, King Radio and The Mighty Destroyer had all recorded with Decca in New York. (Decca’s interest in Calypso was so great that they even sent recording facilities to Trinidad between 1938 and 1940. Over two hundred and fifty or more calypsos were recorded during this period.)
- On that trip Lion entertained the President of the United States-President Roosevelt at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. This was a distinction that no other calypsonian had at that time. When Lion was asked by President Roosevelt where he & Atilla were from, Lion responded “The Land of Calypso” a name which Trinidad is still known by today. http://www.trinicenter.com/Terryj/2003/Oct/312003.htm (Lion wrote a Calypso by that name sometime during the late 1940’s or early 1950’s which he recorded. Here is a link to that song:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNnrgXjJpeA
- Lion and Atilla were also interviewed by Hollywood star and Radio Talk Show host Rudy Vallee on a live, coast-to-coast WEAF radio broadcast which also reached Trinidad. People gathered around PA systems throughout the country to try to hear their local boys, who were being broadcasted from the USA. Rudy Vallee is perhaps the equivalent to today’s David Letterman or Jon Stewart show. It was a proud moment for many in Trinidad & Tobago. Atilla & Lion wrote a song comemmorating the trip in true Calypso style. It is also the first recorded “Calypso Duet”, its called Guest Of Rudy Vallee. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shGJOUc_H58
- Lion won Road March in 1934 with his very popular witty ditty called “Wanga”. It was his first Road March but not his last. Wanga was according to Lion, a new style of Calypso, he called it the “The Ballade or Bracket
Calypso”. The distingtion was that it had an after chorus. The Bracket may also mean something in musical terms but what I am not sure. (This song will be uploaded to Lion’s youtube channel soon.)
- 1935 – A tourist boat from the U.S., the S.S. ScanPen, shown in this picture, engaged Lion to entertain the tourists on board while it sailed to Surinam, Guyana and back to Trinidad. Lion was the only calypsonian who had, up to that date, received such an engagement. I should try to put the last sentence into perspective by saying; there were many places in Trinidad where calypsonians were not allowed entry, denied permission to sing there or both. This was true of several prominent establishments in Trinidad. Therefore when a Cruise Liner or Tourist ship employed a calypsonian back then, it was a huge step forward in the right direction for calypsodom.
- 1937 – The Colonial authorities in a heavy handed manner enforced their “Sidition Laws” and banned “Netty Netty” & “Sally Water” and all the records were dumped into the Port Of Spain Habour.
- A further scandal occurred in May when an excursion boat, the SS Trinidad took dozens of Trinidadians with calypsonians to Grenada. Protests were made and letters were sent to the editor from Grenadians, who expressed horror about “Netty Netty” being played in their country. Lion responded with a calypso about the incident that explained his position and attacked censorship – Excursion to Grenada- will be linked)
- Netty Netty won road March that year. Here is the original recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHXJRx31_tc
- In 1939- At the start of the ’39 Carnival season Lion recalled that he had nothing of worth to stand up against his peers. He was worried and searched his creative mind for something of substance. Lion thus introduced a brand new style into calypso by combining several former road marches or popular songs into a “Cavalcade of Calypso or Calypso Medley”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I31ZsllYk5Y It proved to be a hit with the audiences that season. Lord Invader followed suit a couple of years later with his own cavalcade song called “Ra-ti Ra-ti Ray”.
- In 1940, the “Alexander Ragtime Band” leader requested Lion to compose a song for pan. Lion was a trained musician; he could read, write and play music very well. The clarinet was his preferred instrument but he also played African drums, could make a Shack Shack talk and a Bottle & Spoon walk. Though he was a musician strangely enough he wrote and composed many of his songs by just knocking a table and keeping time. Anyway, that year Lion wrote and composed the song “The Alexander Ragtime Band”. This was the genesis of a long-lasting romance between calypso and pan, which has lasted up to today. Dose anyone out there know the lyrics or melody of this song? Or a recording of it? RLF would love to get a cpoy. ( Here is a link to Elli Mannette on pan) http://www.bestoftrinidad.com/steelband.html.
- That year, Lion made a bold move and recorded pan on one of his songs called “Lion Oh” also known as “Leggo Mi Lion”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvsV7iJ2YZs This is the earliest documented recording of “pan” to date. This was a “bold but risky move ” because at the time the “pan” was not socially accepted and associating with the movement for an upward moving individual was a risk. Lion admire the pan and saw its merit and future in Trinidad and Tobago’s cultural landscape, and thus wanted to assist its development and status. He also recorded with Casablanca a few years later (1947/8). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=md-ygS0xlMU . (4,8 minutes into the record you will hear Lion sing “Jive” accompanied by Casablanca.) RLF is not sure whether this is a recording of 55″ Oil steel drums or Pans.
- 1940 – Lion won the Monarch-the “Grand Calypso Competition” which was organized by the “Victory Tent” . His winning song was “The Fall Of The British Empire”. (This song will be linked) The Monarch records, which TUCO presently adheres to started with the “Grand Calypso Competition” back in 1939. Tiger was the first calypsonian to win that competition.
- 1941- Lion had a huge success with a song called “Woopsin Woopsin” or “Man Dancing with Man”. It was so popular that is started a dance craze called “Woopsin Woopsin” and went on to win Road March. “Woopsin Woopsin” was about the plight of homosexuals in Trinidad’s high society.
- During that season Lion broke the “Colored bar or the Calypsonian bar” at a prominent Colonial establishment called “The Trinidad Country Club”. (This picture is not the property of RLF, we use if only for educational purposes only)
- Prior to this, no calypsonian had ever sung there. Lion’s historic appearance at the Country Club opened doors to other calypsonians, and by extension helped to elevate the social status and acceptance of the calypsonian throughout the country. Atilla sang there not too long after. One can listen to Lion relating this “Country Club” story on Alvin Daniel’s Calypso Showcase“.
- Due to Lion’s popularity, versitility and consistency, he became the official entertainer at “Government’s House” where he entertained visiting dignitaries and Heads of State for the next 10 years. This distinguished job was the first for calypsodom.
- 1942/43– Lion’s song “Ugly Woman/Logical Point Of View” was used with his permission in a Paramount Hollywood movie called “Happy Go Lucky.” Sir Lancelot, a Trinidadian artist/singer, performed this song in the movie. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Lancelot_(singer) The film was a worldwide success giving calypso as a genre its first real global exposure. It was also calypso’s first brush with Hollywood and should be noted that the use of calypsos in films became a trend and this trend continued up to the late 1950’s. (Film link to come)
- 1941-1945 – During this period Lion was extremely occupied with the American Armed Forces, both at home and abroad. From 1942, he entertained the G.I.’s stationed at Trinidad, from one base to another. There are different estimates but as many as 135000 US soldiers and civilians were stationed in Trinidad between 1942 and 1946. The Trinidad adult poulation was back then ca. 350000. There were also over 200 American military bases by the end of WW2. This US to T&T population ratio should indicate that their presence had a profound impact on all aspects of Trinidad society, the entertainment industry included, it thrived.
- When he was not entertaining the soldiers, he was appearing on shows at the Theatres throughout Trinidad. In 1943, he went on contract to what was then British Guiana and toured the country appearing at cinemas and entertaining US soldiers based there. Then, back to Trinidad taking up where he had left off.
- Lion did a greal deal for the “War Effort” fund raising charity work etc., during this period.
- Road Marches(RM) known back then as Leggos or lavways: Those who are unfamiliar with Trinidad Carnival traditions should note that calypso was inextricably woven into the fabric of Carnival, which comes once a year, and calypsonians, armed with an arsenal of songs for that season, would compete for various prizes and titles including Monarch & Road March.
- The RM was awarded the song most played by the bands on the road during the two days of Carnival, as it is done today. This was the People’s Choice, so to speak. It has always been a challenging task to win the RM competition, and even harder to hold on to the prestigious title.
- There are slight differences concerning the RM records during that period, but of the three charts that are in circulation, one states that Lion won a total of 7 Road Marches with 5 consecutive wins. The other says he won a total of 6 with 4 consecutive wins, a third says he won 5 with 4 consecutive win. The Trinidad & Tobago Unified Calypso Association (TUCO) advocates the latter record. Regardless of which chart one may apply, Lion has a standing record since 1938, with 4/5 wins in a row. Kitchener, Tambu, Blue Boy (now known as Superblue), are the closest with a hat trick each. However, Kitchener is the undisputed Road March King of all time.
- World War II had put an end to the Carnival competition during the years, 1942-1945, in the prime of Lion’s career. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnival_Road_March
- The following songs are some of Lion’s Road March winners and contenders between 1934-1945. During that time, the Road March was referred to as a Leggo or Lavway. Dynamite (Atilla & Lion 1934 )Wanga (RM 1934) – Dingolay oh (RM 1935)- Bamsee Lambey (ca.1936), Advantage Mussolini (RM 1936)- Netty Netty (RM 1937), Sally Water (1937) Nora Nora (RM 1938) – Monkey( late 1930’s)- Germany Invaded Poland(1940) They Want for Come Kill Me – Out The Fire (ca.1937) – Ask No Questions(1936) – Old Lady Ran A Mile And A Half – Papa Chunks (ca.1940) – Woopsing Woopsing/Man Dancing With Man (RM 1941)- Pam Pa Lam (1942)- Olga & The Catfis (ca.1943)- The Governor Say No Mas/Don’t Stop The Carnival (1942) – Marianne(RM 1945)- Dorothy Went To Bathe (1945)- Fan Me Saga Boy – Lost Watch(ca.1947). The missing dates will be inserted and the songs will be made available.
- 1945 – Lion was on contract to the “American Glosite Recording Company, U.S.A. He recorded 8 songs for the company and then signed up to sing at a famous night club “The Village Vanguard” shown here, situated on the corner of 57th Street and 9th Avenue, Greenwich Village, New York.Vanguard pic taken from ://www.thejazzpost.com/new-york-day-1-and-2-hersc/
- It should be noted that between 1934 and 1942, Lion recorded more songs than any of his peers, 95 in total. Attila was second with 55 records. Lion was very proud about this accomplishment.
- 1945 –Lion recorded one of his most famous songs; All Day All Night Miss Maryann/Maryann. It was the unofficial Road March of 1945. The papers of the day report, jubilation on the streets both VE and VJ day where the steel bands were playing Maryann. This song has been covered/adapted and sampled by numerous Caribbean and international artists. Two of the versions reached Number 3 and Number 4 on the Billboard charts during the late 1950’s. Here is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hyd2658Q-xs
- After the War, Lion established a Tourists\Entertainment center called “Calypso Ville“. It was located at 65 Quarry Street, East Dry River, Port-of-Spain. Calypso Ville closed when Lion left for England in 1951.
- 1948 – “Amazone Films” a Hollywood company visited Trinidad to produce a movie called “Holiday in Trinidad”. Lion sang several calypsos in that movie. He also mentioned that Casablanca was featured in the film. The film may not have been released, but pan enthusiasts who still search for the Holy Grail should note that there may be a film recording of steel band as far back as 1948. This is perhaps the oldest film recording of steel band.
- By 1948, Lion had proven that he was an innovator, introducing new arrangement style and melodies into the musicology of calypso. (Prior to 1930, calypsos were sung to a limited number of traditional tunes.) He had held all the prestigious titles of his day and without a doubt, he was the undisputed Road March King of the 1930’s.
- He had entertained throughout the Caribbean, in New York at chic nightclubs, theaters, pouch cafes, exclusive private functions, and rubbed shoulders with movie stars. His music was used in Hollywood and he had cut more records than any of his peers. Lion had perhaps reached the zenith of his career, however, there was more success to come based on the solid musical foundation that he built up over the years.
Lion moves to London
- In 1951, Lion and Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Y3jgxz-mYA(TASPO) were chosen to officially represent Trinidad at the “Festival of Great Britain” in London. http://www.20thcenturylondon.org.uk/festival-britain-1951. This was a huge global happening, the first of its kind, featuring cultural diversity from most parts of The British Empire. It was also a kind of “thank you or show of gratitude” from Great Britain to her colonies for their staunch and unwavering support during World War 2.
- Lion stayed in England, married Marie Lovise Ruud from Norway and they had four children.
- They bought two houses in West Kensington and they set up the production of a cosmetics company called, “Rafael de Leon Products Ltd“. These hair products catered for the hair & skin care of the growing African & West Indian population in London at that time.
- 1952 – Lion was sent to Holland, on contract with the La Cubana Night Club in Amsterdam. He stayed there for eight months. After he returned to London, he was kept busy appearing at Night Clubs and Theatres and Music halls. During that year, he wrote a calypso lamenting the death of His Majesty, the King and sent it to the Queen. She acknowledged it by letter.
- During the early 1950′s, a government agency responsible for enhancing safety on British roads, requested a tailor-made song from Lion, a kind of jingle which they could use in a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of the road. London was experiencing an enormous increase in population and traffic simultaneously. This combination spelled more accidents, injuries and road fatalities. Lion responded with “The Highway Code” Link YouTube recording.
- Lion and his wife also ran the “Colored Peoples’ Accommodation Bureau” which located accommodation, and rented flats to Africans & West Indians residing in London.
- It was common place back then to see signs and advertisements, which stated: For Rent: No Blacks, No Dogs & No Irish. Neither was it socially accepted for a black man to court or marry a white woman. http://sharenews.com/no-blacks-no-irish-no-dogs/ As a result of racial tensions, their home at Fairham road was attacked on several occasions. Their front door was nailed shut, tarred and feathered and “smoke bombs” were thrown into the house via the post shutter or the windows. To be tarred and feathered is the equivalent to the Pirate’s “Black Spot”. This meant that you were marked for death or something diabolical. On one such occasion, Marie de Leon fell down the stairs and broke her leg. Lion was also attacked outside of his home, but explained that he was always prepared for the worst. Their children were present while these smoke bombings took place.
- Listen to Lion in a BBC report about African and West Indian musicians in London during the 1950’s. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRHPU3NQtFc
- 1957, Lion’s Marry Ann, which he composed ca.1942 but released it in 1945, was adapted by both The Hilltoppers and Terry Gilkyson & the Easy Riders did versions. On February 9th 1957, The Hilltoppers’ version reached #3, while on April 6th, 1957 Terry Gilkyson’s version reached # 4 on the Billboard charts. Rum ‘n’ Coca Cola is another example of an adapted Calypso that reached the charts in 1945, in fact it was #1. It was written by Lord Invader and that version was sung by the Andrew Sisters.
- 1959 – The calypso, “Ugly Woman/Marry a Woman Uglier than You” was used in a Hollywood British film production called Tiger Bay. The film was shot on location in Cardiff, Wales and was a success then and considered a classic film now. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mz1hCdqf7Q ca. 42 min)
- While in London two Nigerian political parties, the N.C.N.C. & The Action Group requested a song, that could to be used as a “Political Jingle” for the parties in their struggle towards independence. Lion penned “Nigerians Be Wise”; it was recorded in London and became fairly popular in political circles and in state where these parities had their stronghold.
- By 1960, Lion had recorded with several major record labels in the United States, Great Britain and Trinidad ie. Brunswick/Decca USA, American Glosite Recording Company, CalypsoTime, Musicraft, Melotone, Melodisc UK, Guild UK, Leeds UK, Parlophone UK, Sa Gomes Trinidad. While in London he had recorded over 80 calypsos some were new remixes of old songs but several were new i.e. Tambourine, Nigerian Mama, Money, Check To Cheek, Come Punksy, High Way Code and others. He also cut, what can be described as Spiritual Baptist calypsos or Gospel Calypso, one called “Civilization” and the other “While Shepard’s Watch Their Flocks By Night” and two Christmas calypsos.
- 1963 – “Ugly Woman” was covered in both a Rock & Roll and R&B versions. The Rock & Roll version by Jimmy Soul remained at number one on the Bill Board Charts for 14 weeks while the R&B version also topped the chart at number one. This is a song that Lion wrote and performed in 1933 but recorded it in 1934 on his first trip to the USA. http://culturalpursuits.tumblr.com/post/50607320993/anniversary-of-calypso-on-the-billboard
- At age 55, Lion returned with his family to Trinidad and started a candle factory in Morvant. He also registered the Trinidad Folklore Research Institute.
- 1964 – Radio Trinidad gave Lion his own daily “Calypso Hour” show which lasted over a year.
- 1965 and onward – Lion lectured locally at Secondary schools such as St. Mary’s College, Queens Royal College and the University Of The West Indies. He lectured at institutions of higher learning in the US, like Ric College and Brown University, Rhode Island. He has also been interviewed by scholars and students from Trinidad, France, Japan, England, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Nigeria, Ghana and the USA. Lion was dubbed by the Trinidad & Tobago media as “The Walking Encyclopedia” of calypso given his experience and fingertip knowledge on the art form.
- 1968/9 – The first “Calypsonians Association” in Trinidad and Tobago was founded and Lion was chosen as it’s President. That organization has evolved into TUCO, The Trinbago Unified Calypso Association. Atilla, Lion and I believe Sa Galba registered a Calypsonian Union back in 1939 but little or no information can be found about their endeavors concerning that organization. The government formed the “Carnival Improvment Committee” the same year, this is the forerunner to the CDC (The Carnival Development committee)Both bodies were interested in the improvement of the carnival culture.
- 1970 – Lion wrote and narrated thirteen, 25-minute radio programs about the calypsonians of the Golden Age (1934-1950). These programs gave insight to the calypsonians that he felt had contributed most to the development and international success of the calypso during the golden age.
- During the early 1970′s Lion’s song “Love Thy Neighbor” which he wrote in 1941 was adapted and used as the main soundtrack and theme song in one of Britain’s most popular series, called “Love Thy Neighbour” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LSyn-S00YI
- 1975 – A road located in Barataria, Trinidad was named “Rafael de Leon Place” in honor of Lion.
- 1981– Lion received one of the highest national awards the country has to offer, The Humming Bird Medal – Silver for his contribution and service to the art & culture of Trinidad & Tobago.
- Between 1981 and 1982, Lion wrote “The Saga Of Calypso” . This was a series of articles published in the Friday edition of The Trinidad Evening News. It gives insight about people, places, gossip, calypsonians, songs, Bad Johns and characters of his time. He also wrote a few “Folk Tale” articles for the Bomb newspapers. These were about Douens, Papa Bois, Anansi Spider, La’ Diablesse, Soucouyant, The Belmont Jackass and a Human Hog of East Dry River.
- 1985 – Lion penned “Welcome to Pope John Paul 2nd“.” This song so impressed Archbishop Pantin that he had it recorded and invited Lion to perform for the Pope at the President’s House and at the Queens Park Oval. Of course, Lion ensured that he received the Pope’s blessings, something which convinced him that his place in heaven as a calypsonian was guaranteed. http://www.guardian.co.tt/entertainment/2013-03-26/roaring-lion-welcomes-pope-john-paul-ii-tt
- 1987 – Lion published his book titled “Calypso from France to Trinidad”, 800 Years of History”. Information from this book will be made available. There are only two other Calypsonians which RLF knows about who have actually written books about the subject matter and that is The Mighty Atilla The Hun & The MIghty Chalkdust.
- Over the years, Lion has been featured in several international documentary films about Trinidad & Tobago’s culture. We will do our best to compile the names of these documentaries. But here are links to some of them:
- Lion, Kitch & Sparrow in a BBC2’s Arena presentation “All On A Mardi Gras Day 88. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4KXJOS27ZY .
- The History of the Steel pan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjS-I1W_5z .
- Small Land Big Music, Calypso Dreams and others.
- 1993 – With the assistance of Eddy Grant, Lion released an album called, Standing Proud. The carnival release song was Netty Netty, which turned out to be a major hit. He was also presented that year with the “Caribbean Sunshine Awards” for his long stand contribution to Caribbean culture. 1994 Caribbean Music Awards in New York, Eddie Grant presents lifetime achievement award to The Roaring Lion for his accomplishments as the Dean of Calypso.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syyXr0jWP24
- 1994 -Lion received another of the country’s highest national awards for culture, this time the “Chaconia Medal-Silver”.
- 1995 – At the age of 85, Lion released his final album called “Viva Le King“. The song released for carnival was “Papa Chunks” a song he wrote and sang in ca.1938, turned out to be one of the most popular songs that year. It was also a hit at several Carnival festivals throughout the Caribbean, North America and Europe and is still played at festivals and parties today. He is link to “The Caribbean Sunshine Awards” A tribute to Lion. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syyXr0jWP24
RLF would like to conclude this overview of The Roaring Lion’s career by citing what other Calypsonians of Lion’s era and a Calypso historian had to say about him:
Dr. Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool’s book “From The Horse’s Mouth” (Stories of the History and Development of the Calypso) Pages 72 and 73. Juba Publication 2003.
Chalkdust: To understand the Lion’s contribution and the power of his mere presence in the calypso world, the readers should analyze the summation of his character by Lord kitchner:
Kitch said of Lion: “Long ago when people went to the cinema to hear calypso, few went inside early. The majority remained outside the cinema waiting to see if Lion would appear. When this well dressed bard appeared they would then flock to the paying booths, pushing, rushing and yelling for Lion. Look him! They shouted. Only when they saw him in person, they would make an attempt to go to the show inside. NO other singer has reached the hights and glory he attained.”
Atilla The Hun on Lion: who was Lion’s calypso partner and personal friend for the better part of thrity years, notes in his book “Kaiso” 1982 “that Lion is without doubt “ a Calypso great and that he was the Beau Brommel of the calypso stage, a showman, a trend setter, innovator and a melody maker. Lion was a trained musician and played brillantly”
Lord Pretender; when asked as to who was the good or best calypsonian of his era, Pretender answered: All of them were very good but Lion was the most popular. 3,23 min on the video: History Of Calypso https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXe0_WYUfp8
Calypso historian, Professor Gordon Rohlehr, speaking on Lion’s death, said: “A whole era of calypso has gone there. He had been active in the calypso world for over 65 years, first as a performer, then as someone with a very professional approach to the whole business of entertainment. Even in the formation of a Calypsonians’ Organization (in association with fellow-performer Atilla) there was the word ‘business’ in the title.
“He was also important as a commentator and historian and someone who was deeply interested in the art, folk and culture of his time and was a source of information,” Rohlehr said, although the professor sometimes questioned Lion’s findings. “But it was important that people like him were interested in the history of the art form at that point in time. When he got together with Pretender, Beginner and John “Buddy” Williams, you got a good insight into the development of calypso, from the 30s to the 50s. He pursued his interests vigorously, particularly in the 70s, when he did a radio programmes on calypso’s ‘golden age’ and wrote articles for the Evening News, he was one of the stalwarts.”
Rohlehr observed that the test of the integrity of Lion’s work was that, as recently as 1995, he was able to touch the youth with a remake of hits from the 40s, like “Papa Chunks”. The fact that the song could so easily transcend so many decades was its real signature, Rohlehr said.
Don’t kill me because I’ve
the luck, the look, the wear and then the pluck
Don’t kill me because I’ve got the luck,
the looks, the wear and then the pluck
It’s jealousy that really have them so endread
The woman and dem want to take meh head
Oh they call me Papa Chunks
the woman and them call me Chunk Cahlunks
- 21.2.15. Calypso Craze in the USA? http://www.guardian.co.tt/arts/2015-02-21/when-harry-met-calypso
23.01.15. TUCO launches Calypso vocal stamp http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2015-01-23/tuco-launches-calypso-vocal-stamp07.02.14. Tribute To Greatness http://www.trinidadexpress.com/featured-news/A-tribute-to-greatness–244143511.html
- 2013: The Holocaust Museum & Education Center of Southwest Florida created an original exhibit dedicated to calypso songs and their singers. The recordings were captured by Decca between 1938 – 1940. The performers expressed their opinions about Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and their activities during World War II, Calypso: Singing the News of the Day. http://www.holocaustmuseumswfl.org/education/teachers/teachers-portal/high-school-ideas-curriculum/calypso-singing-news-day/
- 2012: American Jazz musician Etienne Charles’ ‘Kaiso’ serves up classic calypso-jazz creole. http://www.examiner.com/review/etienne-charles-kaiso-serves-up-classic-calypso-jazz-creole.
- 2004: The Government Postal service issued a series of stamps commemorating calypsonians. One of the stamps have a collective picture of Lion, Kitchener and Sparrow -The Three Kings of Calypso- three generations. This picture was taken at the Queens Park Savannah POS ca. 1975, while they were collectively receiving a CDC award. http://www.newsday.co.tt/news/0,15216.html
- 2002: Lion’s song, “The Royal Tour” was included in an official BBC music/song compilation celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee (50yrs.) on the British Throne. This song which Lion wrote in 1952 summed up her 6-month coronation tour throughout the Commonwealth. Here is a newspaper article by Terry Joseph “Royal Salute”: http://search.co.tt/trinidad/lion/queen50.html