Kaiso No 9 - October 10, 1998

Greetings!  Well its below freezing every night but no snow yet.  Won't be long.  Wish I was going to New York as the Sunshine Awards are honoring two of my favorite calypsonians, Bomber and Brigo, by placing them in their hall of fame on October 23.   More on that later.

Lord Funny

One of my favorite calypsonians every year I go to Carnival is Funny, who certainly deserves his name and has been one of the most consistently humorous calypsonians.  His calypsos are always fun and often memorable.  While many of his songs were released on singles, almost all are out of print.  He is one calypsonian who cries out to have a 'best of' collection issued on CD.

Lord Funny (Donric Williamson born May 23,1941)

One of Trinidad's best humorous calypsonians, Funny continues after three decades to be popular in the tents, where his outfit each year is often as entertaining as his song.  Grew up in Morvant and his sobriquet was first a childhood nickname for his big brother passed on to him.  From small, he sang and played guitar 'on the block' in his neighborhood.  He entered a local calypso competition in 1965 with his composition Dozen Men on the Ground.  He began in 1966 after King Solomon acted to get his career going.   He appeared that year in the CDC Calypso Theatre tent singing his memorable patriotic number Sweet Sweet Trinidad and the suggestive Vicey in 1966 at the Calypso Theatre.   Sweet Sweet Trinidad remained popular and reappeared years later on his first album.  Funny stayed two more years at the Calypso Theatre with Food is Food and Good Advice in 1967 and Supposing It Happen True and Girl Days in 1968.  He took third with Buy Local Man in the 1969 competition.  More importantly, he had a huge hit with Father Brown at OYB that year and it was released as a single with his other song for the year, Pick 'n' Patch on Antillana.  He continued to release at least one single each year for several on Antillana.

In 1970 he switched to Blakie's Victory tent where he was a headliner for the next four years and was a finalist for calypso monarch with Sock it to Me and his song about proper dental care Check Up AKA Clean Teeth.  At Dimache Gras, he appeared dressed in white with a giant toothbrush to perform it.  In 1971, Cats in Town was also popular.  For 1972, it was Bachannal in Hell and in 1973 had one of his most memorable hits with Soul Chick.  He switched to the Regal tent in '74 with Bowling Alley and Rubbish in the Alley.  For 1975, he stayed at the Regal and his two selections Bam and Time Travel were issued on his first album, Have Fun with Funny, Antillana.  In 1976, he sang Accident Policy and Flocks of People at the Professionals tent.  He did Confounded Children and Flim Flam returning to the Calypso Theatre after almost a decade.  Then it was Shadow and Me and They Dug Up the Road in the 1978 Wizards tent.  He switched to the Master's Den for the next eight years.  In 1979, he did Imitation Rasta and Tricica and in 1980 Town Man and No Water.  In '81, he again had a hit with Soul Man and returned with Mash It and Five More Years.  For 1983, it was Jam Session and Right 'n' Wrong.  In '84, it was Fungi and Give Me a Break and for '85 Two Knee and Five More Years.

He debuted in the Spectacula tent in 1986 and has been there ever since.  His first year there, he had one of his biggest hits with Scroo Koo Cheek, his song about the sound of squeeky mattresses heard through the walls in hotels.  He returned in '87 with a song about a henpecked husband Rupert AKA Shame.  Later that year, he took second to Cro Cro in the 25th Anniversary Independence calypso competition with How Yuh Feel and revived his '77 song Dem Confounded Children.  He won the award for best composed calypso for his serious song, How Yuh Feel.  It also appeared on the album anthologizing hits from the competition.  For '88, it was The Latest Style and De Ting and he performed another number Waily Waily sung at kids shows.  He released an album called Calypso Hits in 1989 with Contender.  1989 also was memorable for his delightful Time Really Flies.  For 1990 he did What to Sing and in 1991 Certain Things.  In 1992, it was Funny Singing It followed by Just a Dream the next year and But and Afrofria in 1994.

For 1995 he dealt with the serious side of male female relations with clever word play in No Consent.   For 1996 and 1997 Funny showed his whimsical side Have You Ever Wondered and Funny Win the lottery.  For 1998, it was back to the more serious subject, public male urination, but a still light touch, Shaking It.

Perhaps Funny's Check Up should be the theme song in every dentist office.

Check Up

Yuh eat and yuh drink and how life sweet
But when last did you check up on your teeth
Yuh eat and yuh drink and how life sweet
But when last did you check up on your teeth
Your teeth is ah thing must clean every day
If you don't your teeth will decay
Look at my teeth so clean and white too
So why don't you try and do as I do

Ah get up in the morning Ah brush
After ah have mah lunch Ah brush
If ah eat between meals Ah brush
After mah dinner time Ah brush
If ah happen to just drink whiskey or gin
Before ah go to sleep ah brush again

Check up yes friends check up on your teeth
And try to avoid eating plenty sweets
Yuh better check before its too late
Bad teeth will sure give you toothache
While yuh brushin please get in between
After yuh brush yuh must wash out clean
Ah clean and check mine in every way
Now ah proud to say look ah mine today.

Calypsonians from Then to Now

Rudy Ottley has been a serious fan and researcher of calypso for many years.   Since 1996, Rudy has worked as the marketing director for TUCO, the Trinidad United Calypsonian Organization.  He has just published his third collection of oral history essays, filled with interview segments and quoting important lyrics.  This latest volume is the best of the three with the sharpest drawn portraits.  The first volume was Women in Calypso (1992) and this was followed by a volume on male calypsonians called Calypsonians from Then to Now (1993).  He has just released Volume Two.

Women included Rose, Francine, Twiggy, Abbi Blackman, Lady Wonder, Denyse Plummer, Drupartee, Marcia Miranda, Lady Iere, Eastlyn Orr, Natasha Wilson, and the United Sisters.  The first volume of From Then to Now featured Pretender, Kitchener, Fighter, Blakie, Ras Shorty I, Black Stalin, Relator, Bill Trotman, Gypsy, Funny, Sugar Alloes, Superblue, Crazy, David Rudder, Machel Montano, Zandolee, as well as Antigua's Swallow and Grenada's Ajamu.

The latest volume features pieces on Lion, Sparrow, Striker, Composer, Black Prince, Shadow, Brigo , Cro Cro, Mudada, Explainer, Baron, Poser, Penguin, Scrunter, Rio, Tambu and Iwer George.  He adds Black Wizard from Grendada, Antigua's Short Shirt, and St Lucia's Pelay.  Besides the outlines of their careers, these go beyond the creative process to the often harsh realities of being a calypsonian.  Striker talks of how little there was in monetary reward for a twice calypso monarch and long campaigner as do several others.  Black Prince doesn't shy away from how he followed the lead of many older calypsonians he admired into serious alcoholism and how it wrecked he life for many years until Pretender talked him into giving it up.  Signal moments in calypso competitions come to focus, win or lose, as well as controversies such as Iwer's picong response to Ras Shorty Rudy plans more volumes in each series as time permits.

All three are still available directly from Rudy Ottley, 1-868-642-9916, e-mail: otlyshrs@cablenett.net.

Upcoming Releases

Upcoming on the record market soon are the '98 Christmas and soca parang.  At Brooklyn Carnival, I heard Allrounder perform his hilarious new soca parang wishing Santa to bring him a little Viagra!  Written by his daughter, Shirlane Hendrickson, it should be out soon.  He released one other soca parang, Laramania a few years ago.  The Guardian last Thursday reported that Ronnie McIntosh is about to release his first Xmas song, a Shadow composition, Have a Nice Holiday.

I checked with University Press of Florida and they report delays in the release of Louis Regis's book on political calypso during the first 25 years of Trinidad independence.  The official press publicity page with full info is  http://nersp.nerdc.ufl.edu/~upf/Fall1998/regis.html   This book should be on every serious calypso fan's Christmas list!

Recently published by University Press of Florida is Lorna McDaniel's book on the Big Drum tradition in Grenada.  Don Hill who himself studied the Big Drum tradition writes in high praise of this volume.  See the full info at  http://nersp.nerdc.ufl.edu/~upf/Fall1998/mcdaniel.html

Ray Funk

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