Lord Executor (Felix Garcia, ca.1878-1952)
“But when I, Executor draws neigh
Man and beast and insect must die”
From left to right: King Radio, Lord Beginner, Lord Executor & Growling Tiger. ca.1937
RLF would like to say a few words about Calypso Great, the Lord Executor.
Executor’s peers viewed him with great admiration and some of them would admit in private, or in public, that he was a genius in Calypso and the Supreme Monarch of Extempo.
It is rumored that he was born in Laventille, but regardless as to whether this rumor is true or not, he lived most of his adult life at St. Barbs in Belmont until his death. He had a college education which was something that no other Calypsonian of that era had except Attila, who was Executor’s junior in age.
Lord Executor was a linguist; he spoke French/Patio, Spanish, Portuguese and English fluently. He composed and sang in two of these languages. Kindly bear in mind that Trinidad was a multi lingual society prior to 1935 where English, Patio and even Spanish were the dominant languages. Most calypsonians had to be able to sing a verse or two in both languages, especially in the villages.
Lion was about 30 years younger than the “Lord”- as he was honorably called. Lion admired Executor and considered him to be the most educated, inteligent, well-read and witty of all the calypsonians of his day. Lion undoubtedly considered him a genius in the art form. During the late 1960s, Lion actually lobbied the State to erect a statue of Executor in his honor, but to no avail.
A master at words and rhyme, handsome, elegantly, slim and always well dressed, Executor was Lord of the Manor between ca. 1905-1930. According to Lion, he ‘helped raise the general standard of the Calypso genre, gaining it more respect and acceptability in the public eye’ or should I say, ear. Executor was a benchmark for the new generation to follow. Bear in mind that Calypso and Calypsonians were highly ostracized between the years, ca.1870-1930.
By the mid 1930’s, when Executor was already over 50 years of age, things started looking brighter for the artists and the industry. A new era was heralded in with a brand new talented crop of intelligent “Post Primary” educated singers. This period is characterized by the development of the Calypso Tent, the professionalization of the artist, access to recording facilities and the start of business sponsorship for the promotion of Calypso at home and beyond these Iere shores.
In 1935, although Excecutor was in the winter of his career, he was still chosen by Sa Gomes to travel to New York with the new young stars of Calypso to record for the Brunswick Decca Recording Company. He made about 3 trips in all to record but during these few trips, Executor stunned audiences in New York with his extemporaneous skills; by calling on them for topics and answering intelligently and in perfect rhyme and timing. If one listens to Executor sing, it sounds like he is “rapping” at times. He had a different style compared to other calypsonians. Try listening to several of his songs-:)
According to Lion, Executor wrote about one thousand (1000) songs in his lifetime, but he seldom completed a song before rendering a performance. One can perhaps say that Executor was in a permanent “extemporaneous state of mind”. Lion has related countless confessions by top calypsosnians who met humiliating defeat and devastation when the “Lord” walked in late, and unexpectedly into a competition, and left “Mocking Pretenders” baffled, and in shock.
During that time, it was the norm that any calypsonian could enter a competition, whether they were registered to participate or not. Competitions usually took on one of two forms; either a specific topic or issue, and the other was an open “free choice” of song competition. The custom was that resident singers could pass by their tent at about 4:00 p.m. on the day of a competition, and become informed about the nature of the show, and gather the necessary information that he would require to compete later that night at about 8:00-9:00 p.m.
Thus, non-resident Calypsonians, could also “shop around”, (if I may use the expression), and inquire about the different competitions and battle for prizes and notoriety, if they so desired. Calypsonians were not assigned to tents in the same manner that they are today, and there were not as many calypsonians during that time as today. The structure of the business was different. Oh yes, if you asked yourself the question, only 4 hours to compose a song? The answer is Yes. With good lyrics-:)
The business community tapped into this competitive nature of the Calypsonian to popularize and sell their products. In an upcoming “Calypso Legends” article, I will explain more about this marketing aspect of the genre, and how one can perhaps say that it is the original “Jingle”, at least in Trinidad &Tobago. There were no local radio stations until about 1941. Thus, Calypso was an effective marketing tool. The street callers of the day used Calypso jingles to lure potential customers into stores etc. “A good “Hook Line” is ah sale”! This marketing aspect of Calypso was further enhanced when “mass” recording of Calypso started in 1934.
Sparrow’s first major breakthrough in 1956, “Gene & Dina” was originally meant to be an advertisement for a store in Port-of-Spain. I don’t think that the storeowner accepted it or the store was closed down, but whatever the reason was, Sparrow changed around some words, and history was made. But, right now I am straying, so let me get back to the Lord-:)
Lion recalls a competition during the Carnival season of 1935 at Victory Tent, Nelson Street when on this night in particular, the Calypso topic was about a new product on the market called,“Dancow Milk.” Perhaps people remember “Dancow Milk”, with four cows on the label? Anyway let Lion tell you the story. After all, he was there.
“On the Saturday night of the competition it was sold out; not even standing room could be had. On the cast that night there were singers like King Radio, Attila, Beginner, Growler others and myself – we were the resident singers. While the last competitor was on stage, Lord Executor walked right in, and as the competitor sung his last verse, the audience shouted, “we want Executor”, over and over. The manager of the Tent called Executor and asked him if he would like to compete. He replied that he would, but he did not know what it was all about. He was told that it was about “Dancow Milk”, and that the winner would be given a prize. Then he was given a leaflet with the advertisement, and the names of the agents, product info etc. The Lord then went on stage, and told the musicians what key he wanted to sing in and then he improvised a song there and then, here is a verse of it:
“Doctors and scientists have all declared,
That Dancow Milk must be sold everywhere; (Repeat)
For these are not the days of fable,
So you must look for the Cow on the label,
You may say what you may, even take it anyhow,
But give the fame to “Dancow”
Dancow means reliability
It’s full cream and renowned for its palatability
It gives you vim, it gives you pep and gives you vitality
One tea spoon of Dancow contains a bag of energy
It’s good for the bouncing baby but it’s better for the old, old lady
So say what you may, even take it anyhow but give the fame to Dancow.
No need to mention who won-:)
Information in this article is based on Lion’s own literature.
Written by A. de Leon 25.12.14.
Kindly listen to Lord Executor’s “They Say I reign Too Long”