Kaiso No 40 - June 15, 2003
Ugly Woman, Handsome Man
If you were asked who most often sings Roaring Lionís Ugly Woman these days, Iíd guess your answer would be folks like David Bereaux, Regeneration Now, and other Trinidadian artists that specialize in classic calypsos. But the correct answer seems to be choral groups around the world. This is the result of an arrangement written by the great African American choral arranger, director and conductor Leonard De Paur (1914-1998).
De Paur created an arrangement of the song back in the Forties and it was recorded by his choral group at the time called the De Paur Negro Choir. It was issued as a single and part of an album, Latin American Songs. In 1954, he copyrighted his written arrangement of the song under the title, Marry a Woman Uglier Than You. It has been made available in songbooks and as sheet music ever since and is still currently available for sale.
The amazing thing isnít just that the sheet music is available but that the arrangement appears to be wildly popular! There are a great number of recordings of De Paurís arrangement currently available on CD. They have been recorded by a very diverse number of choral groups from all over the world, France (Octuer Contretemps and Le Choeur des Jeunes d'Alsace), Japan (Chor-Farmer), Canada (Amabile Boys Choir), Sweden (Stockholm University Singers), Englandís famous King Singers and other British groups like Cabinet Shuffle and college groups in the United States including Bell Tower Boys as well as an international World Youth Choir. It appears to be part of the repretorie of a much larger body of choral groups including the Collegium Regale (The Choral Scholars of King's College, Cambridge), the Notre Dame Glee Club, Gordon College choir, Musica Viva Australia, LihkŲren from Sweden, the Milwaukee Choristers, the BYU Menís Chorus and the Shallakazam Singers. It is one of the recommended pieces for senior high school choir competitions in the Southern California Vocal Association. Who would have guessed.
It isnít the only calypso to be recorded by choral groups. Colgate Universityís a capella group Colgate Thirteen seemed to have recorded a number of calypsos back in the 1950s as well as Marry a Woman Uglier Than You including Man Smart, Woman Smarter, Hold Em Joe, and Man Piaba (Belafonteís adaption of the traditional folk song, West Indian Weed Woman)
Ugliness seems to be a theme that has intrigued many calypso writers from a wide tradition of picong especially the Sparrow and Melody songs to well known numbers by Brigo and Dougla. But beyond those, there have been very specific answer songs to Lionís Ugly Woman. The first one was by Guyanese vaudevillian Bill Rogers who recorded Ugly Or Pretty Woman in November of 1934, only months after Lion recorded his original. Lord Beginner recorded his response, Pretty Woman first in 1938. It became popular enough that he recorded it again, both in 1946 and 1951. I recently got a 78 rpm single that has the Bermudan singer Kingsley Swan and the Calypso Islanders doing Ugly Woman on one side and Pretty Woman on the other!
Bill Rogers was in London in 1952 and recorded Nice Woman, Ugly Man. Since no copy is known of the earlier Rogers recording it is not clear if this is the same song as his earlier one but it certain appears by the title to be a different answer song. Frank Holder, another Guyanese, recorded Rogerís Nice Woman, Ugly Man. as well in 1957. It is included on his album, Frank Holder Sings Calypso (London Records)
Perhaps least known of the answer songs is the one that De Paurís Negro Chorus recorded at the same time as De Paurís original choral arrangement of Ugly Woman. It is a song called De Handsome Man) listed as a Barbadian Calypso by Jacobs, arr. Jacobs & Collymore. Who these authors are or what is the source of the song I have not been able to trace. Iíd be interested to know if anyone has any ideas.
During the Calypso Craze of 1957, there was a big question in the United States as to how to dance to calypso. While calypso dancing itself didnít catch on at all with American teenagers, a variation did shortly after the craze in 1958. The chalypso, a combination of two dance styles, the calypso and the cha cha cha was created by the dancers at the premier teenage dance television show of the 50s and 60s, American Bandstand. Out of Philadelphia, and hosted by the eternally young Dick Clark, American Bandstand appeared on the televisions across America every weekday and the dancers became legends not only doing the popular dances of the time but for inventing their own dances like the bop, the stroll and the chalypso.
According to John A Jackson in his American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock 'n' Roll Empire, Clark and Tony Mammerella came up with the name chalypso after observing Bandstand regulars doing a dance that combined the cha-cha-cha and steps done to calypso tunes. One of the most popular chalypso records was Billy and Lillieís La De Dah, a song that Clark and Mammerella issued on their own Swan record label. After Le De Dah became a hit early in 1958, Clark commissioned writers Frank Shay and Bob Crewe to come up with a similar tune, which they called Lucky Lady Bug. Because both songs were hits and both were used by Clark for his Bandstand dance contests, he was able to play them daily, for weeds on end.
There were even chalypso songs written and recorded by a variety of artists from rhythm and blues pioneer Ike Turner (Chalypso Love Cry ), Marsha Renay (Our Cha-lypso of Love), Eddie Bartel (Cha-lypso Bounce), Denny and the LPs (Slide Cha-lypso), doo wop groups like the Five Sounds and Nobletones (Chalypso Baby) and the Chancellors (Chalypso Train), Judy Scott (The Cha-lypso) rockabilly artist Bob Kelly (South Sea Chalypso) and rock groups, the Emanons (Chalypso Bop) and Billy Duke and the Dukes (Cha-lypso). The Strollers on their album Swinging Flute In Hi-Fi included Flute Cha-lypso.
The dance was also immortalized in the lyrics of Danny and the Juniorís incredibly popular At the Hop in the verse
When the record starts spinnin'
You chalypso and you chicken
At the hop
Meanwhile Billy & Lillie's La Dee Dah went to number nine on the pop charts in 1958 but the chalypso fad was short lived.
While it had a brief period of popularity on American Bandstand, chalypso quickly faded away with the ascendancy of the twist. But even the king of the twist hedged his bets. Chubby Checker had a song called Love Is Strange Chalypso on his first album Twist With Chubby Checker (Parkway 1960). The cha-lypsoís relationship to calypso itself seems pretty attenuated and if the calypso craze was brief, the chalypso fad even more so such that few but fans of American Bandstand even remember it. Then Checker went on a few years later to popularize a real Trinidadian dance form, the limbo, but that's another story.
New and Forthcoming
Just out is the second volume in the series that Don Hill has been shepherding with Rounder Records from the Herskovitz recordings. It is issued under the long title, The 1939 Trinidad Field Recordings of Melville & Frances Herskovits: "'Rastlin' Jacob": The Music of the Spiritual Baptists of Trinidad. This volume is all spirituals and other songs from the Spiritual Baptist community. I have loved the first volume of Herskovitz recordings, Peter was a Fisherman a more general anthology from the remarkable field recordings in 1939 while Melvine and Francis Herskovitz lived in Toco and I really look forward to this one.
Then in September from Oxford University Press is a new book that will certainly be of interest, Shannon Dudley: Carnival Music in Trinidad: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. It is part of the Global Music Series, a series of short introductory texts for college use. Professor Dudley did his dissertation on Panorama competitions and lived for quite awhile in Trinidad and teaches at University of Washington. He did an excellent academic article, Judging By the Beat: Calypso verses Soca, Ethnomusicology, Vol. 40, No. 2, pp.269-98, Spring/Summer 1996.
Feel free to contact me and tell me the calypso news. Also I am happy to get email addresses for additional people who might be interested in these occasional newsletters.
Ray Funk - 15.6.03
POBox 72387, Fairbanks, AK 99707, firstname.lastname@example.org
Part of Article MT044
Site designed and maintained by Musical Traditions Web Services Updated: 10.5.04