BOMBER: TRIBUTE TO A GRENADIAN-BORN HERO
TRIBUTE TO THE BOMBER (Pt.2)
Bomber will be 80 years old on January
Clifton Ryan was traipsing about St.Georges, savoring his calypso
victory of the night before, when the cognomen of
"Bomber" was conferred on him by an admiring stranger.
This strikes the uninitiated as being really odd, for
here was an artist 'surrendering'to the dictates of an
unknown person. Of course the calypso cognoscenti know
otherwise and better. They know that the world of
calypso is a kinetic democracy. They also know that in
calypsodom the kings and queens reign while their
whirling subjects rule. Consider the case below.
Rupert Westmore Grant was being measured for a new suit,
when he whispered to his tailor: "Boy,Ah want this suit
to go North to take on them calypso champs up there.
Upon hearing this news the excited tailor shot back-
"Rupert, you mean you going and invade Port of Spain?
Boy, you go be a real invader".
And so the Mighty Invader was born. Invader's name soon
became very well known in faraway places, especially
after he brought a plagiarism lawsuit against Morey
Amsterdam , an American who stole an Invader composition
("Rum and Cola") while visiting with US troops in
Trinidad, in 1943.The purloined lyric was given to the
AndrewsSisters, an American girl group, whose 1943 cover
sold a mammoth seven million copies.
The future "Bomber" was still in shirt tails when the Invader sang
"Small Island Go Home", a number that savaged the
Grenadian population in Trinidad. The song really
"vexed" a Trindad-based Grenadian named Theophilius
immediately took up calypso singing in order to avenge
Grenadians and other small islanders in La Trinite:
Fittingly, Wood named himself "Small Island Pride".
"The Pride" was a large man who had a yen for sombreros.
He was the quintessential comic and laughter resided
wherever the Pride presided. Young Bomber met Pride when
the latter visited Grenada, along with Kitchener,
Pretender, Zebra and Ziegfield- back in 1945. Pride and
the other bards heard the Bomber sing and they all
encouraged the young man to take his talents to the Land
of the Calypso.
And there were other calypso greats, including Spoiler
and Viper, who, during regular visits to Grenada,
encouraged the Bomber to take his toolkit south. In
fact, Bomber saw the cream of Trinidad's calypsocracy
between 1941 and 1944, for those were the years when
Trinidadians flocked to the Spice Island to celebrate
Carnival: there was no Carnival in Trinidad between 1941
and 1944, owing to the colonial authorities' fear that
mas' was likely to upset the sensitive security
situation: The war was still on and military and naval
installations at Chaguaramas and Wallerfield were vital
to holding the line against the Germans, the authorities
Security reasons also justified the Trinidad colonial
authorities' detention of Tubal Uriah Buzz Butler, from
1939 to 1945. Butler (1897-1977), the Grenadian-born
trade unionist, saw military action in Egypt during the
course of the First World War. This experience
radicalized the young man, causing him to question the
moral foundations of colonialism. Upon his return to
Grenada he launched an ex-soldiers association and also
called for representative government for the Grenadian
people. Butler's activism coincided with a rash of fires
in the Grenadian capital and the Grenada police were
soon pointing their
accusatory fingers in the direction of the young
ex-soldier. Butler's parents became quite alarmed and so
they shoved him off to Trinidad to join an older
brother, who was working in the oilfield. That was in
January 1921- thirty-five years before the Bomber would
make his own trip to Trinidad.
Bomber decision to "go South", after donkey's years of
indecision, was made in the wake of (1) the devastation
of Hurricane Janet in September 1955;(2) the emigration
of a girlfriend (to Trinidad); and (3) the crowning
success of Mighty Sparrow.
Bomber arrived in Trinidad by schooner on the morning of
June 13,1956. He was 28 years old. He carried with him
a battered grip, a carton containing some Grenadian
fruits and provisions, and a head swarming with dreams.
After completing a few formalities at the port the
Bomber went straight to 69 Prince Street, Pride's
Sixty Prince Street would have been a quite noisy place
in those June days of 1956, for having arrived in
Trinidad Bomber was determined to hone his craft and go
for the Big Prize. In the meantime, he found a wuk in a
Port of Spain hotel. Indeed, he was singing while doing
his wuk on a November day in 1956, when all of a sudden
ah fella walked up to him:
"You have a good voice", said the fella... And what kind
ah song you was singin dey-- that is you own
Bomber's mind galloped back to 1940: he heard echoes of
the 1940 meeting with Miss Pansy Rowley.
He caught himself just in time to say "Yes" to the
"Hmmm", mumbled the fella, "boy you sound as if you good
enough to make the tent. Is which part you live?"
"Ah live 69 Prince Street", replied the Bomber
"Sixty -nine Prince Street? But that is Pride place, you
sure that is way you staying, palos?"
"Yes, I live by Pride ", said Bomber.
"Oh Gosh, you live by Pride. And you mean Pride ent tell
me that. Hear nah, tell Pride that Mello say he go take
ah turn in 'e arse for not telling 'im bout you. You
hear me? Tell Pride jess as Ah tell you".
Yes, it was Lord Melody heself. And "Mello" was riding
real high in 1956.
That year he sang "Hurricane Janet":
Janet, ah beg you hard
Janet, not Trinidad (repeat)
You blow way the whole of Grenada
Same fate the Barbadians suffer
Every day you read the "Evening News"
Enough to make ah man jump out shoes
Fifty six was also the year of "Mama Look ah Booboo Dey".
And in a lyric booklet of that same year, Lord Melody (
Fitzroy Alexander) wrote:
"This year 1956 will long be remembered in the history
of calypso because it is only a few short months ago a
of our top artistes left our shores to seek not fame but
fortune in distant lands".
The "Uglyman" was probably talking about the brigade
that journeyed to British Guyana (Guyana) in 1955.
Yes, '56 will long be remembered . It saw the birth of
the Sparrow Revolution.
In 56, Trinidad, the freshly -anointed "Federal Capital
of the West Indies", was a hive of excitement.
Fifty-six witnessed the rapid rise of Dr Williams and
his cohort of balisier-toting nationalists.
Fifty- six saw the coming of the University of Woodford
Square, where the "Doc" decanted a new and cerebral
By the last days of 1956 the Bomber was all signed up to
sing in a calypso tent . Being both newcomer and an
unknown, the Bomber was placed on the "Reserve List",
which consisted of calypsonians who could be called upon
to perform literally at a moment's notice.
Bomber went to show after show after show and he sat on
the benches waiting for opportunity to call. Finally,
opportunity bellowed at the Ritz cinema at Seh wah (San
Juan). There was a vehicular accident that night and one
of the calypsonians on the "A List" could not make it
to the tent.
The MC of the Ritz show was Grenadian- born Sir Galba (
George McSween, from Birchgrove, St Andrew's). Upon
receiving the news of the accident, Sah Galba left his
post and rushed out to the Bomber: He was breathing
heavily and his voice shook with nervousness.
Galba got face to face with Bomber. He drew a deep
breath and then said:
"Boy , you could sing?"
Bomber answered in heart-rending humility:
" Well, Ah does try"
"You does try" , shouted Sah Galba. "Well, Ah puttin you
on stage now now and if you ent come good doh ever come
3 will be published on Bomber's birthday - January 30.