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Bomber will be 80 years old on January 30th
Caldwell Taylor

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.

Invader.... Bomber....

His Golden Years CD - released 2004The 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 Woods, who
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 said.

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. Calypso dreams.
After completing a few formalities at the port the Bomber went straight to 69 Prince Street, Pride's batchie.

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 composition?

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 fella's query.

"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 number
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 politics.

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 back here"!

Editor's note:

Part 3 will be published on Bomber's birthday - January 30. 


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