CHALKDUST WINS AND NUMBER 8
"Chalkdust" is the Trinidad and Tobago Calypso Monarch
for . Last night’s win was Chalkie’s eighth, tying him
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
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
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
After graduating St Mary's, Hollis attended Teachers
College, where he continued his calypso singing. He
teaching in 1966, the year he entered the
government-sponsored the "Buy Local" competition and was
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
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
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
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
© February 22, 2009