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Caldwell Taylor

"Chalkdust" is the Trinidad and Tobago Calypso Monarch for . Last night’s win was Chalkie’s eighth, tying him with
Sparrow for the most calypso crowns in the history of calypso king (monarch) competitions: .Among calypso historians there is wide agreement that the first major calypso competition was held in 1939: that show crowned the Growling Tiger, whose victory earned him five dollars a bottle of white rum.

Chalkie has much in common with the Tiger whose singing career career came to an unfortunate end in 1959, when he sang a number that brought to light Premier Eric Williams’s secret marriage to Dr Mook Sang, a Guyanese dentist living and working in Trinidad.

Legions of Williams ‘s supporters accused Tiger of scandalizing the Doc. Even Sparrow got into the act with a song that stoutly defended “ the doctor”. The Birdie sang:

Leave the damn doctor
He ent trouble allyu
Leave the damn doctor
What he do he will do.

Chalkie was born Hollis Urban Lester Liverpool at Tetron Bay, Chaguaramas on March 5, 1941, just as the Americans were moving into the area to built a naval base under a controversial Land Lease Agreement with the British Government. It bears pointing out that the Chaguaramas base was the key reason why an airport was built at Pearlsin Grenada, in 1943.

Young Hollis (probably named for Sir Alfred Claud Hollis, Governor of Trinidad and Tobago from 1931 to 1936) attended Port-of Spain's Nelson Street Boys School before his parents moved to Tobago in 1949, where he completed his elementary education:

The Liverpools returned to Trinidad in time for Hollis to attend secondary school at St Mary's College in Port-of Spain, the alma mater of calypsonian Atilla The Hun, Chalkie’s spiritual ancestor.

Attila was the first Calypsonian ever to win a seat in the Trinidad and Tobago House of Parliament. A young
Grenadian by the name of McLean Pope was also elected to to the Trinidad and Tobago House in the year of Attila win, 1950.

Hollis Liverpool wrote his first calypsoes while at St Mary's. These early songs were mostly "anthems", which were meant to inspire his school's soccer team as they battled rivals at the annual intercollegiate soccer competitions.

After graduating St Mary's, Hollis attended Teachers College, where he continued his calypso singing. He commenced
teaching in 1966, the year he entered the government-sponsored the "Buy Local" competition and was awarded
third place.


Chalkie made his first trip to the Big Yard in 1968, but it would take seven years before he could cop his first Calypso King title. Before he could get to the title he was fired by the Ministry of Education "for doing a second job" (singing calypso) without‘clearance’ from the Minister of Education.

But everybody knew that young teacher had been given the pink slip because of his hard-hitting 1968 contributions, including "Brain Drain".

Chalkie was defended by some in the "calypso fraternity". One veteran bard, Pretender, asked why it was that "one
teacher [Mavis John?] could sing foreign songs and another couldn't sing we kaiso".

But Chalkie could defend himself adequately and he did so in his 1969 "Reply to the Ministry " ( aka "The Hell with the Ministry):

Ministers and all building apartment
And Chalkie, you and me so cyah pay the high rent
Some work part-time in the regiment
And get money as Guardian correspondent
Civil servants for so went to Expo
And still collecting their monthly dough
Aubrey Adams putting on play in Queen's Hall every day
But you talent you must give away..

Eventually, Chalkdust was reinstated to his teaching position.

Chalkie grabbed his first Calypso King title in 1976, when he delivered two scalding commentaries in "Three Blind Mice' and "Ah put on me Guns Again".

The bard repeated in 1977 with "Juba Jubai" and "Shango Vision"

A dry spell set in and Chalkie did not get to wear the crown until 81,  when he caught them wid "Things That Worry Me" and "Ah Cyah Make".

He had to wait another seven years for the next crown: The ‘89 campaign clinched the deal with "Chauffeur Wanted" and "Carnival is the Answer" .

Chalkie won in 93 ( beating the "Birdie" into second place) with "Misconceptions" and "Kaiso Sick in the Hospital".

The sixth crown came in 2004.

Number seven came in 2005. And now comes number 8.

Chalkdust is the true successor to the immortal "Atilla the Hun”: He is social commentator, scholar and public intellectual.

© February 22, 2009


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