Calypso 1900 - 1949

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The first vocal recording of a calypso was made in 1914 when Julian Whiterose recorded "Iron Duke in the Land." Prior to this, the first recording of calypso music was an instrumental by a band called Lovey's Orchestra in 1912. In the early days of calypso, calypsonians (singers of calypsoes) formed groups and performed at various locations around Trinidad during the months leading up to Carnival. Since these locations were temporary and ceased to exist after Carnival, they were called "tents." Calypsonians took on individual nicknames and the tents were also named. The first calypso tent in Trinidad was the Railway Douglas Tent which opened its doors for business in Port-of-Spain in 1921. Among the other tents that opened in Port-of-Spain during the 1920s was the Redhead Sailor Tent. Some of the popular calypsonians from the 1920s through the 1930s were: Attila the Hun; Lord Beginner; Lord Caresser; Lord Executor; Mighty Growler; Wilmoth Houdini; Lord Invader; Roaring Lion; King Radio; Growling Tiger; Duke of Iron; Macbeth the Great; Mighty Destroyer; Chieftain Douglas; and Gorilla.

In 1935, the first female calypsonian to sing in a tent, Lady Trinidad, made her debut at the Crystal Palace Tent on Nelson Street in Port-of-Spain. Her success paved the way for two more female calypsonians to follow in her footsteps in 1936: Lady Baldwin (Mavis Baldwin); and Lady MacDonald (Doris MacDonald). In 1937, Lady Trinidad made history when she became the first female calypsonian to make a record.

One of the larger and more popular tents in the early 1940s was the Victory Calypso Tent which functioned at 95 Edward Street in Port-of-Spain; however, the most popular tent was The Original Old Brigade which also operated on Edward Street (see 1941 photo above). Another tent in operation was the Maginot Line Calypso Tent which was located at 47 Nelson Street in Port-of-Spain. The name of the World's Fair Calypso Tent was changed in 1943 to the Commando Tent and featured Growling Tiger, Lord Beginner, Lord Caresser, and King Iere. Calypsonians who did not join a tent banded together and performed in cinemas around the country. One such traveling group that functioned in 1942 was the Roving Brigade.

Although Carnival was suspended from 1942 to 1945 during World War II, the calypso tents were kept open. By 1947, the 24-year old Lord Kitchener had gained enough popularity to open a new tent called The Young Brigade which featured young calypsonians such as: Lord Melody; Lord Ziegfield; Mighty Killer; Mighty Spoiler; and Mighty Viking. Kitchener's tent was later changed to The Original Young Brigade. The Old Brigade and The Original Young Brigade were the two most popular tents throughout the remainder of the 1940s. In addition to the early calypsonians, some of the popular singers of the 1940s were: Lord Pretender; Small Island Pride; Sir Galba; Gibraltar; Lord Viper; Lord Kitchener, Mighty Terror, and Lord Wonder.

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