Kaiso No 30 December 19, 1999

The death of another legend in calypso is the reason for this latest newsletter. King Fighter died a week ago in Grenada where he had lived for many years.

King Fighter (Shurland Wilson) (March 10, 1928 - December 12, 1999)

Born in Victoria Village, on the east coast of Guyana, Wilson got his name, King Fighter, because he was a boxer known for his fancy footwork. Fighter started out as a fisherman, then a boxer, before becoming a calypso singer. He started out singing boleros and love songs before switching to calypsos.

One of his main influences was the Guyanese vaudeville singer Bill Rogers. As for calypso, his favorites were Kitch and Melody and he started singing in Guiana. However, he left and moved to Trinidad because he couldn't make a living in his native country as either a boxer or a singer.

He came to Trinidad in the Fifties and was an active performer, primarily in the OYB tent until the 1980s. He first appeared in Trinidad with fellow Guyanese calypsonian Lord Coffee in 1955 and quickly rose to be a very successful calypso singer. He was a finalist for 1957 monarchy out of the Young Brigade with Smart Woman and Dhalpourie (Indian Wedding). He was singing both his Why BG Don't Want to Federate and Animal Beauty Contest that year. He was recorded extensively on a large of record labels in the Fifties and Sixties on records issued both in British Guiana, Trinidad and in England. In the 1959 he was in OYB tent singing Advice to West Indians.

Advice to West Indians

West Indians please take it easy
And stop deserting your own country
You leaving you house full of family
And go out to some in the cold country
When we have everything in the Caribbean
That we can better our position


Trinidad have plenty pitch and oil
Jamaica have the banana soil
Grenada have plenty spice
Barbados is really nice
And British Guiana have King Fighter

He was in the 1962 OYB tent and had a popular radio hit with People Will Talk. He was in the 1964 semi-finals for the monarchy and featured Come Leh We Go also known as Sookie which was also a Roadmarch contender. His other song that year was Up and Down Beat. Derek Walcott in a review of his performance at the 1964 Revue tent that said his performance was electrifying but described him as "The BG fisherman with a nose like a Volkswagen."

He appeared in the 1966 OYB tent and perhaps his most popular song Pajama Suit was played by one band for Road March. During the Sixties, he recorded one album for Sparrow's National label, The Calypso Devil, which is very hard to find. His did several songs on the anthology 'This Is Calypso', Pom Pom, What You Sow You Reap and a song about the Vietnam war called Send Me Instead in which Fighter says he will go to the war in place of Muhammed Ali (the then Cassius Clay), who had refused to go into the army on religious grounds. Fighter said, "I go fight for America."

In 1971, he sang Calypso is not Smutty which struck out against the trend toward suggestive lyrics in other types of music and defended such attacks against calypso.

Calypso is not smutty
To compare with the other songs as you see
Calypso is a song could console you
And make you feel good when you in trouble
So why should you accuse our local songs
And fighting to kiss up the foreign ones.
In 1973, he sang Whiskey Mas at the O. Y. B. and in 1975 he was in the Revue with Persecution, and at the 1981 Kingdom of Wizards tent but does not appear to have appeared in the tent after that.

He lived in retirement in Grenada for many years prior to his death doing only occasional special appearances. He got a special award from the 1994 Sunshine Awards program in New York and sang Pajama Suit. He also recorded a medley of Pajama Suit and Come Leh We Go, in the late '80s, which appears on their various artists complication, 'Calypsoca Golden Hits' released in 1994. He came to New York in 1998 for Dewad Phillip's Living Legends of Calypso concert and re-recorded two of his classics, Pajama Suit and Come Leh We Go for the Living Legends CD.

Godwin Oyewole's Calypso Tent on the Net website features a dozen recordings by Fighter in Real Audio. Go to http://www.intr.net/goyewole/calytent.html to hear them. Since almost none of his recordings are available this is an important service he has performed. Ice Records had planned several years ago to release a collection of Fighter recordings but that has been on hold for several years. The only recordings currently available, to my knowledge, are his recent recordings on the excellent Living Legends of Calypso collection produced by Dewad Philip, 1-718-604-1723, with Power, Blakie, Funny Composer, Scrunter, Prowler, Brigo as well as King Fighter.

Fighter. People Will Talk (1962)

Not only here in the West Indies
But ah find people is too hard to please
This is really true
Don't matter what you do

I ain't talking nonsense
This is practical experience
Don't mind how you try
They will criticize
And ah don't know why

If you changing steady and you looking fancy
They will say how you showing off
And if you keeping yourself like a bad john
They will watch you and laugh
But ah fall in a plan I ain't watching no man
Ah just doing to suit meself
Cause if is not how you dress
Is the way how you walk
The people will talk

Take for instance when ah was small
Every day is ah bacahanal, always misbehaving
With expression and street fighting
Well the talk all over town
Now ah playing cool and easy
The same people say how ah stupidity

If ah man have ah ugly face like Melody
You can't get peace in the place
Any way you turn
Look the boo boo man
But if you face good looking like mine
They would say you feminine
Nothing in this world
Like you can't please people at all.

Thanks to John Child and Don Hill for last minute assistance on this.

Complete back issues of the Kaiso newsletter can now be found on the web at the excellent on-line world music journal, Musical Traditions. If you missed any, check them out at: http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/kaiso.htm

Keep those email messages and news coming to the cold and Frozen North.

Ray Funk - 6.11.99
POBox 72387, Fairbanks, AK 99707, rfunk@ptialaska.com

Part of Article MT044

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