Author Archive

Open Session, Turners Falls

July 14, 2016

Come one, come all~

 

OPEN OLD TIME SESSION every 4th Wednesday, 8-10pm, at the Rendezvous, 78 Third Street, Turners Falls, MA. Everybody welcome!

ipamallan@gmail.com for more info.

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2016 Harry Smith Frolic

July 2, 2016

HSF2016

Moonshine Holler in Turners Falls 5/13

May 2, 2016

Flyer - Moonshine Holler(2)

East Texas Serenaders #2

February 3, 2016

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from Texas State Historical Association (tshaonline.org):

East Texas Serenaders was a musical group of four East Texans from Smith and Wood counties and one of the most unusual bands of the 1920s and 1930s. Their rare left-handed fiddle player, Daniel Huggins Williams, won contests all over East and Central Texas. The guitar player was Cloet Hamman, with a gift of good bass runs and a faultless rhythm. On the group’s first recordings Patrick Henry Bogan, Sr., played an upright bass, but later played a three-string cello with a bow; the bass didn’t travel well on top of the car in bad weather. John Munnerlyn played tenor banjo with a steady colorful style.

The Serenaders first recorded two pieces on December 2, 1927, in Dallas for Columbia Records. They subsequently recorded fourteen songs for Brunswick about 1928. Finally, in 1937 they recorded eight songs for Decca. Munnerlyn left the group about 1930 and was replaced by Shorty Lester, whose brother Henry played second fiddle on later recordings. The rags and breakdowns the group played were clear steps toward swing and string-band music, a departure from the standard fiddle-band tradition. Some critics have given the Serenaders credit for the beginning of western swing. Hamman, Bogan, and Munnerlyn made one of the most forceful rhythm sections in string-band history.

Bogan was born on January 5, 1894, and died on June 24, 1968. He started playing guitar early and then took up the bass fiddle and chorded the piano. He decided to play the cello later because it was smaller; he removed a string, he said, because he didn’t need it. He worked for a time on a ranch near Happy, Texas, in the Panhandle, served in the United States Navy during World War I, then worked for Wells Fargo and the post office in Mineola.

Huggins Williams was born in 1900 and died in 1974. His father, originally from Milan, Tennessee, played fiddle, and Huggins would sneak the fiddle off the shelf to practice when he was nine years old. He began to learn several tunes before his father became aware. Since he was left-handed, the boy was reaching over the lower strings to play the upper ones. His father bought him a left-handed fiddle and arranged lessons from a local teacher. Williams played with Lew Preston in the Tyler area in later years. He also tutored one of the really great jazz and swing fiddle players of all time, Johnny Gimble of Nashville—a fact related by Gimble to Bill Malone.

Cloet Hamman was born on May 5, 1899, and died in June 1983; he was the last of the Serenaders to die. His father, Will, was a famous breakdown fiddler and piano tuner from near Lindale, Texas, who won every contest he entered until he was about seventy years old. Cloet learned guitar backing him up. While working on his tractor in later years, Cloet got his fingers hung in the moving machinery and subsequently lost some fingers in the accident and was unable to play thereafter.

John Munnerlyn, of Mineola, worked for the United Gas Pipeline Company west of Mineola. He moved to Houston about 1930. Shorty Lester, on tenor banjo on later recordings, was said to be from the Garden Valley area in Smith County west of Lindale. His brother Henry, second fiddler on later recordings, was from somewhere in North Texas.

Many of the Serenaders’ recorded pieces were written by Williams—”Acorn Stomp,” “East Texas Drag,” and “Arizona Stomp,” for instance. The group got “Shannon Waltz” and “Sweetest Flower Waltz” from a northern fiddler named Brigsley who taught Huggins to play several ragtime tunes as well. Hamman composed “Adeline Waltz.” “Mineola Rag” and “Combination Rag” include bits of other tunes. The Serenaders so refined their music that they set the stage for other western and Texas bands by relying on their ragtime, waltzes, and tin-pan-alley style, using syncopations, flatted notes, and a fast tempo. From the radio they picked up some of the influence of Cajun music, Chicago jazz, and the new swinging sounds of popular music.

CONTINUE READING HERE: https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xge02

East Texas Serenaders perform Mineola Rag, recorded 11/28/1930/:

editors note: Old-time musicians have long debated the proper key of Mineola Rag – die hard 78 fans often argue that the tune was played out of Eb and Ab, while others assume that it must have been in D and G or F and Bb. If you look closely at the above photograph you will notice that both guitars are capo’d at the 3rd fret and both guitarists are playing a C-shape, indicating that Eb was a key commonly used by the band.

The Corn Potato String Band

January 12, 2016
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Ben Belcher, Aaron Jonah Lewis & Lindsay McCaw

from www.cornpotato.com:

The Corn Potato String Band has earned high praise in traditional American music, keeping old time fiddle and banjo music from a one-way trip to the dustbins of history. Theirs is a story of struggle, hard knocks and triumph. Essentially unable to cope with modern life, the members of this band are outcasts of society who survive by playing the lost music of the flatlands where they were raised.

The Corn Potatos have delighted audiences with their driving fiddle tunes and harmonious singing across the US, Canada, Europe, Mexico, and India. They are all multi-instrumentalists dedicated to continuing the music and dance traditions of the Central and Southern US. In addition to being champion fiddlers they play banjo, guitar, bass and mandolin and deftly handle many different antiquated styles including ballads, “ho-downs,” country “rags” and southern gospel, specializing in twin fiddling and double banjo tunes.

Peor Es Nada performed by the Corn Potato Stringband, from their 2014 self-title album:

Kenny Hall #2 – This Ain’t Western Swing!

January 8, 2016

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from “Kenny Hall (October 14, 1923 – Sept. 18, 2013) Jamming With The Angles” 

The last several years have seen Kenny and friends jamming together regularly on Wednesday evenings at the Santa Fe Basque restaurant in Fresno. But on Wednesday, September 18, 2013, Kenny missed this jam session. But he had a good excuse – because that’s the day Kenny went to join the jam session we all hope to see some day. And I have it on good authority that he was heard haranguing the angel with the harp: “Hey, BIG chords now. Bring that E string up a bit. Now take the A string down. Stay off the four chord there – this ain’t Western Swing. Key of D. Let’s go!”

Continue reading at: http://folkworks.org/features/passings/41952-obit-kenny-hall

Check out Kenny’s unique mandolin picking style on his rendition of Rainbow:

 

 

Cleofes Ortiz – Violinista De Nueva Mexico

December 22, 2015

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From www.knme.org:

You’re invited to attend an ‘old time’ dance at the San Ysidro church in Corrales with beloved fiddle player, Cleofes Ortiz. Cleo, as he’s best known, likes to tell the stories of how he learned to play the fiddle as a youngster in Mexico at the turn of the century. He can be found playing in the traditional Mexican style at `bailles’ around New Mexico.

(view movie here: http://portal.knme.org/video/1474984034/)

La Cadena by Cleofes Ortiz and Friends, 1990:

Jack Webb

December 16, 2015

From http://www.kaycounty.info:

June 19, 1902 – June 1, 1956

Jack Webb, colorful Salt Fork valley rancher, was found dead Friday night in the famous 101 Ranch Buffalo pasture that was part of his cattle ranch. Webb, who was believed to be in his late 50’s, was found asphyxiated in the cab of his pickup truck, parked near a creek that runs through the pasture, just south of the Salt Fork in Noble County. John Ramsey, Noble County sheriff, W.E. Rice, Noble County district attorney, and Undersheriff Norman Coffelt, Kay County, who investigated, said Webb had taken his own life. The former Wild West show star, who for a time directed the 101 Ranch Wild West show and starred in it, had been in ill health in recent months. He suffered from cancer. Investigating officers said Webb had been dead since sometime before noon Thursday. He was last seen when he picked up his mail at the Marland postoffice about 10:00 Thursday morning.

Friends Search

When he failed to keep appointments Thursday evening and Friday afternoon, friends began to search and found him in the pasture where the Miller Brothers once kept their famous buffalo herd. Webb ran cattle in that pasture, and others, on land where he once rode as a rodeo star for the 101. He lived north of the Salt Fork near the old rodeo grounds, in a spacious log cabin home he built about 20 years ago. He lived alone. The body was found by Lawrence Evans of Ponca City and Marland, who occasionally helped Webb handle stock on the ranch. Webb left a note asking another friend Gareth Muchmore, to notify his daughter, Mrs. Charles E. Wahl of Princeton, N.J., the former Jean Webb. She and her husband are flying to Ponca City to complete arrangements. The funeral is to be held at 3 p.m. Monday at the Miles Funeral Chapel. Webb’s oft-spoken request is to be on Cowboy Hill in the heart of the old 101 Ranch, just south of Webb’s headquarters ranch. The hill for many years has been the meeting place for cowpunchers of the Cherokee Strip country. He will be buried beside his long-time friend and Wild West show associate, the late Col. Zack T. Miller of the famous ranch.

Trick Shot Artist

Survivors include his daughter and son-in-law, and a grandson, Kenneth Schley Wahl. Webb was known as one of the world’s greatest trick shot artist with either pistol or rifle and was recognized as the greatest living trick roper. During his rodeo career, he also was a trick rider and cowboy singer. A versatile performer, Webb played the guitar and piano, wrote cowboy songs and was writing a book about western characters he had known when he died. He from time to time had sung over radio station WBBZ, and elsewhere, and was a frequent contributor of humorous articles to the Peoples Column of the Ponca City News. He had led an adventurous life, friends said, that included service in the Army ad at one time he was a member of and pistol instructor for the New York State Police. He was a native of California, but considered Oklahoma his home.

The Night Guard by Jack Webb, recorded 5/27/1930 for Victor Records

Lydia Mendoza

December 14, 2015

 

From Texas State Historical Association:

Lydia Mendoza, known as “La Alondra de la Frontera” (“The Lark of the Border”), “La Cancionera de los Pobres” (“The Songstress of the Poor”), and later as “La Gloria de Texas” (“The Glory of Texas”), was born in May 1916 in Houston to Francisco and Leonora Mendoza. From an early age she was taught to play a variety of instruments by her mother and grandmother, and when she was four years old, she made a guitar for herself from wood, nails, and rubber bands. Within a few years Mendoza joined her family in performing songs and variety shows for the Tejano community. Her ability to sing and play the twelve-string guitar ultimately made her the family’s principal bread earner.

In 1928 when Lydia Mendoza was only twelve years old, her family responded to an OKeh Records Company advertisement seeking Spanish-language recording artists placed in La Prensa, the Spanish-language newspaper in San Antonio. After successfully auditioning, the family recorded twenty songs under the professional name Cuarteto Carta Blanca and earned $140. However, they soon left San Antonio to seek work in the sugar beet fields in Michigan. Upon their return to San Antonio by the early 1930s, Mendoza and her family found work performing at Tejano business establishments, on the streets, and at the Plaza del Zacate. During the week they earned twenty-five or thirty cents a day to cover food; on the weekends they pulled in a dollar and twenty-five cents to cover rent. Soon Manuel J. Cortez, a Tejano broadcaster, heard Lydia Mendoza sing at the plaza and offered her a guest appearance on his radio show, Voz Latina. The audience’s quick and positive response to her talent led Cortez to invite Mendoza to appear regularly on his show for $3.50 a week. The money provided the family much-needed income. Mendoza recalled years later, “With that three-fifty, we felt like millionaires. Now at least we could be sure of paying the rent.”

Continue reading at https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fme81

Monterrey by Cuarteto Carta Blanca, recorded in San Antonio, 1928:

Leon Bukasa

December 2, 2015
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Photo from youtube.com

text from wrldsrv.blogspot.com:

Born in 1925, in the town of Likasi in the Katanga region of Congo, Bukasa left primary school, not to go into music, but to start an apprenticeship as a fitter with the Union Minière. Even his move to the capital Léopoldville, in 1947, wasn’t inspired by his wish to become a musician. He had found a job as a master fitter.

It was Henri Bowane who discovered his talent and who, in 1949, invited him to the Ngoma studios. Soon Bukasa was one of the major stars of this legendary label.

Continue reading at: http://wrldsrv.blogspot.com/2009/01/bonne-anne.html

Pauline wa ngai, timbe-time yeyeye by Albino Kalombo & Leon Bukasa, Ngoma 1434

Chartwell Dutiro

November 26, 2015

Text taken from a BBC interview with Chartwell, more here:

I started playing mbira when I was four at the protected village, Kagande, about two hours drive from Harare where my family was moved by the Salvation Army missionaries. Even though the missionaries banned our traditional music, I learned to play from my brother and other village elders. My mother also encouraged me as she used to sing to me. The mbira is a traditional sacred instrument of the Shona people, one of the main tribes of Zimbabwe. We play this music in ceremonies that last the whole night long. Some people sing, some dance and others get possessed by the spirits of our ancestors who give daily guidance to the living people.

The mbira is a small instrument made out of hand-forged metal pieces which are placed on a board covered with a metal plate full of sea shells. That gives it a nice buzzing tone. When I play I stroke the metal with my thumbs and right index finger. I usually place the mbira inside a calabash which is a gourd like a pumpkin. This gives it a fuller echoey sound.

It was not easy growing up in a colonized country where the missionaries discouraged our ancestral music. For starters, I was called ‘Chartwell’ rather than ‘Shorayi’, my Shona name which means “You can underestimate me if you wish”. They were suspicious of our musical gatherings which they figured were political meetings so they condemned the music as devil’s music. Yet I more often than not missed Sunday school because I’d have been up all night playing the mbira. This music is every thing to me – you just can’t talk about Zimbabwean history without it. We carry the spirit of our ancestors through the music. During the liberation struggle our people fled to Mozambique where they had the spirit mediums guide them through the music.

We sing all the time – if it rains we sing, if we want the rain to ease off, then we sing. When a baby’s born we sing. If someone dies we sing. We sing when we’re happy and when we’re sad. I wake up in the morning with a song and start yodeling away with spontaneous lyrics about what I’ll be doing that day or maybe about what I dreamed of last night. It’s right in my soul and expresses exactly how I feel at a particular moment in time.

Marenje performed by Chartwell Dutiro from his 2006 album Chivaraidze

Camille Feruzi

November 25, 2015

Text from http://wrldsrv.blogspot.com

Camille Feruzi was born in Stanleyville in 1912. At a very young age he taught himself to play the accordeon, following in his father’s footsteps. When his father was at work the young Camille used to secretly practise. At the age of 15 he moved to Leopoldville, but it wasn’t until ten years later that he started his career in music. Together with a sax and clarinet player from Guadeloupe he started a musical group, with apart Camille’s accordion and the Guadeloupean’s sax & clarinet a piano and a guitar. The ensemble played in bars and at private dances.

Read more at the excellent worldservice blog: http://wrldsrv.blogspot.com/2010/06/veux-tu-danser-avec-moi.html

Siluwangi Wapi Accordeon? by Camille Feruzi with Franco & TPOK Jazz (1972)

S. E. Rogie

November 24, 2015

S.E. Rogie, (Sooliman Rogers) was born in the 1940s in Sierra Leone where he learned to play guitar while still a youngster. He grew up during the formative years of highlife and his palm wine style of playing fit right into the genre. He supported himself as tailor but by the 60s he was ready to go out as a musician on his own. Singing in four languages his songs, ‘Go Easy With Me’, and Koneh Pehlawo’ were big hits. But his biggest hit was the song ‘My Lovely Elizabeth’ which was covered by countless artists and is still know all along the West Coast of Africa. The song was eventually picked up by EMI and that led to a great advancement in his music and in his recordings.

In 1965 Rogie formed a band, the Morningstars, who acompanied his acoustic guitar with electric intruments and the local sounds of African percussion. In 1967 he traveled to Liberia, and in 1970 he began the first of sixteen years in the U.S. performing his African Folk and Cultural Programs in Elementary and High Schools all over California. He received awards from the United States Congress and Senate, the City of Oakland, and the City of Berkeley. In 1988 he returned to his homeland. He died in 1994, just after his release of the album, Dead Men Don’t Smoke Marijuana.

Nyalima Nyapoi by S.E. Rogie from the 1994 album “Palm Wine Guitar Music” from Mississippi Records

Malawian Ragtime Blues

November 14, 2015

Text from “Zambian Music Legends” by Leonard Koloko

Wilson Makawa was a Malawian born musician who worked on the Northern Rhodesian copper mines in the 1950s. He had a slick touch on the guitar and performed with Alick Nkhata and his Quartet. Wilson Makawa was a songwriter who effectively brought out Cichewa and Tumbuka traditions in his music. His songs were mostly social commentaries capturing the mood in villages and towns. Among his solo hits were tracks like ‘Bambo Siyaya’ [listen below] – a social comment condemning domestic violence; ‘Chitutuko’ – a patriotic song about freedom and economic development; and ‘Bwera Kuno wachikondi – a love song.

His music was so melodious that it went on to attract younger singers in years to come. ‘Bambo Siyaya’ was reworked by Keith Mlevhu under the title ‘Achimweme’. Another local singer Thomas Mambo did ‘Kumalembe’. Both tracks came through in the mid 70s. Later in the new millenium South Africa based Malawian musician Erik Piliani won himself a SAMA (South African Music Awards) nomination for his album title ‘Chitutuko’, the title track being a remake of the famous Wilson Makawa song. It is a piece reflecting on the migrant’s anguish at finding himself away from home and familiar people.

Wilson Makawa performing ‘Bambo Siyaya’. Audio taken from ‘Opika Pende: Africa at 78 RPMS’ from Dust-to-Digital and Excavated Shellac

Fans of American music may hear a resemblance between Makawa’s playing and the rhythms employed by early ragtime and blues guitarists such as Charlie Patton.

Charlie Patton performing ‘Shake It and Break It’ recorded in 1929.

Patrick Jones Tells the History of Calypso in Trinidad

November 12, 2015

LP-CoverPatrick Jones at age 71 Image from Cook Records 5016

Text by Caldwell Taylor from http://www.spiceislandertalkshop.com

Patrick (“Chinee Patrick”) Jones (1876-1965), pyrotechnician, political gadfly, human rights campaigner, anti-colonialist, Carnival band-leader and raconteur extraordinaire, is an unsung master of calypso.

He was a leading exponent of calypso‘s oratorical style, a form that characteristically contained four eight-line stanzas sung in the minor key. The oratorical was essayistic, expository and florid and it is no wonder that it was favored by calypso’s “connoisseurs of words”, including “Executor”, “Atilla the Hun,“ Growling Tiger” and “Pretender”. Echoes of the oratorical can be heard today in “Chalkdust”, “Valentino”, “Black Wizard”,  “Scholar”, and a Barbadian-Canadian bard  named “Structure”.

“Chinee Patrick” emerged in the first decade  of the twentieth century and in his heyday he did battle against songsters like “Fijonel”, “Executor” ,and “Chieftain Douglas”. In a 1956 interview with American folklorist Emory Cook,  Chinee Patrick recounted a 1920s lyrical “war”  against Lord Executor, then regarded as the preeminent extemporizer (“extempo artist) in the land and the true successor to “the greatest extempo calypsonian of all time”, the “Senior Inventor” (Henry Forbes).

Patrick Alexander Jones was born in Port of Spain, to a Chinese shopkeeper father and mixed (Euro-African) mother. Patrick’s father was a scion of
the Chen family, whose Chinese ancestors were known for their radical nationalist politics. Indeed, Patrick’s father and his father’s brother were both sent to the West Indies as indentured laborers, exile being punishment for the brothers’ radical  politics.

The following audio excerpts are from Emory Cook’s 1956 interview of Patrick Jones, released on “Calypso Lore and Legend”

Montague Square Dance 11/7/2015

November 5, 2015

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The Montague Square Dance is back! The first dance of the series will be Saturday November 7th, 7-10 pm. At the Montague Common Hall (montaguecommonhall.org/ FKA the Montague Grange), 34 Main Street, Montague, MA.

Will Mentor calling with music by The Farwells (http://thefarwells.band/)

$5-10 sliding scale. All are welcome, young and old, all dances will be taught.

Sub-Saharan African Country Music

November 5, 2015

R. Crumb’s Record Room Pt. 20

John’s Old Time Radio Show w/ Robert Crumb. “SUB SAHARAN AFRICAN COUNTRY MUSIC”. Fantastic sub-saharan African 78 records that were influenced by Western Country and or Hawaiian music… and then some that weren’t. Special Guest Robert Crumb plays 78 rpm records from his fabulous record collection from the South of France on John Heneghan’s Old Time Radio Show.

Listen here: http://www.eastriverstringband.com/radioshow/?p=1879

Jules Verne Allen

November 5, 2015

from http://www.rocky-52.net/

Jules Verne Allen was one of a handful of authentic and documented cowboy singers and writers — along with Carl T. Sprague — who lived the life that his songs dealt with. He also learned those songs before radio and records carried them to the world, when they were still part of an oral tradition. A cowboy from the age of ten, and a participant in cattle drives until the end of the first decade of the new century, Allen began singing as an amateur for the pleasure of his fellow cowboys.
After a stint in law enforcement, including a possible period as a Texas Ranger, and service in the army during World War I, he began working as a professional singer in the 1920s and was appearing on radio in Dallas, San Antonio, and Los Angeles by the end of the decade, sometimes under various pseudonyms, including Longhorn Luke. Allen began cutting music for Victor starting in 1928, and cut a total of a dozen sides for the company that year and the next. He cut what were among the earliest known versions of “The Cowboy’s Dream,” “Home on the Range,” and “Days of Forty-Nine.” His recording of “The Dying Cowboy,” more familiar as “Oh Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie,” is one of the more notable authentic oral tradition-derived versions of a song dating, in that form, at least since the 1830s.
Allen was also a composer and writer in his own right, and published Cowboy Lore, a collection of three dozen songs accompanied by details about cowboy life, in 1933 — it has been reprinted several times, most recently in 1971, some 26 years after his death.

“Long Side The Sante Fe Trail” by Jules Allen

Recorded April 8, 1928, Victor Records

Canute Caliste

November 4, 2015

A breakaway performed by Canute Caliste, violin, and group, recorded July 30, 1962 by Alan Lomax

from http://www.theguardian.com

Few internationally celebrated artists can have spent their lives working in humbler surroundings than the naive painter Canute Caliste, whose studio was a lean-to shack in the backyard of his wooden house on the tiny Caribbean island of Carriacou, off the coast of Grenada.

Surrounded by chickens and other farmyard animals, Caliste, who has died aged 91, produced fascinating, quirky paintings of island life that attracted a wide fan base in Europe and the United States, where art collectors embraced him as a charming and idiosyncratic painter in the primitive style.

Frequently as eccentric as the paintings he produced, Caliste had a sign at the end of his garden path in the village of L’Esterre that read: “This way to the great artist.” He may not quite have warranted that epithet, but, for many, his awkwardly painted figures and reportage style conveyed the charm and traditions of the Caribbean in much the same way that Lowry encapsulated industrial northern England. His paintings of fishing boats, cricket matches, carnival dances and domestic rows usually displayed a good deal of humour and no particular concern for accuracy – though a devout Roman Catholic, for instance, his painting of the Last Supper depicted 15 disciples.

Working mainly with acrylics on hardboard, Caliste could knock out 20 paintings in a day in his prime, and would run out of supplies almost as soon as he got hold of them. Though he had many other interests – and he was an accomplished musician – he lived to paint, and did so for most of his life.

Caliste claimed to have been inspired to begin painting seriously at the age of nine, when he was told by a vision of a mermaid that, if he followed the Bible, he could achieve anything he wanted. After that, mermaids appeared as a constant theme in his work, but his main preoccupation was the everyday scenes of Carriacou, an island 13 miles square, 23 miles north-east of Grenada.

Though he initially painted purely for his own enjoyment while making a living as a boatbuilder and fisherman, Caliste’s talent was spotted in the late 1950s by a local nun, Sister Trudy, who sold some of his works in a gift shop she ran. As tourism to the island increased in the 1960s, Caliste, by now well into his 40s, began to pick up word-of-mouth trade as visiting “yachties” trekked up the hill to his studio from the nearby harbour – or came by taxi from the island’s capital, Hillsborough – to buy souvenir paintings at a few dollars a time.

When an American, Jim Rudin, arrived in Grenada from New York in 1966 to open the Yellow Piou art gallery in St Georges, a friend of Caliste brought over a selection of his paintings from Carriacou, and Rudin liked what he saw. He exhibited Caliste’s work for the next 20 years, selling in decent quantities. Indeed, it was Rudin who suggested, in the 1970s, that Caliste write short commentaries at the bottom of his paintings to indicate what they were depicting. Caliste took to the idea, and his scribbled jottings, full of spelling mistakes and bad syntax – “Lovers coartin”, “general hurspetal in Grenada” – became one of his endearing trademarks.

Also in the early 1970s, the US-based anthropologist Donald Hill brought Caliste to further attention by including him in a doctoral thesis on Carriacou and buying up large amounts of his paintings, some of which he gave to Smith College in New York.

But Caliste’s big break came in the late 1980s, when another American, Lora Berg, who lived in Barbados and worked in the US embassy there, visited Grenada and happened to see his paintings. She asked to meet Caliste and decided to produce a coffee-table book, The Mermaid Wakes, showcasing his work. Published in 1989, the book brought Caliste to much wider attention, and almost immediately his work was in greater demand. Art lovers from the US and Europe began ringing Rudin to commission Caliste to produce works similar to those in the book, and his paintings even found their way into the collections of George Bush senior and the Queen.

As he became more renowned, Caliste was visited by foreign journalists and began appearing habitually in magazine articles and travel literature. The Grenada tourist board latched on to him as a marketing vehicle for Carriacou, and he was exhibited at venues around the world, including the Research Institute in New York, the OAS Museum in Washington DC and the Pedro De Osma Museum in Lima, Peru.

His paintings – always signed “Mr Canute Caliste” – were so unusual that they rarely failed to elicit a reaction, positive or negative. “People used to walk into my gallery and their eyes would nearly always fall on his work,” said Rudin. “Then they’d either say they were the best things I had in the gallery or ask me how I could exhibit such junk.” None the less, Caliste’s work generally met with puzzlement in the West Indies, where the general reaction was: “My child could do that”.

In terms of quality, Caliste’s golden era was probably in the 1980s, when he also painted some large works on canvas. In his latter days, the quality declined as his sight faded, and although he could still produce good work into his 80s when he put his mind to it, he fell into the habit of reproducing versions of scenes he had done before, rather than painting something new.

Relative to the average income in Carriacou, Caliste made a lot of money from his art, but most of it went on supporting his 22 children (predominantly by two women) and around 100 grandchildren. Even before the death of his wife Vonice – and well into his 80s – he was fond of keeping much younger girlfriends, and would be happy to supply them with various material needs.

As a result, he still lived in the same humble house, with its outdoor oven, that he had built for himself as a young man. He often said it was providing for his children that was the motivating factor behind his prodigious work rate.

Caliste’s lifestyle barely changed; he rarely left Carriacou, apart from a couple of funded trips to the US or to attend an occasional official function in Grenada as a VIP, and he produced many of his documentary-style paintings – such as those on the Grenadian revolution of 1979 – from television images and his imagination.

A quietly spoken but open and friendly man, he was slim and energetic throughout his life, and generous to a fault. If a visitor happened to make a personal trip to his studio, they were likely to come away with an armful of paintings bought for well below their market value. Even Caliste’s more mundane works sold for around $300-$400 and his better ones could fetch in excess of $2,500. But in person, he would happily sell at $10 a time, often throwing a second in free.

In Grenada and Carriacou, Caliste was more widely respected as a fiddle player who specialised in playing music in the endangered quadrille dance style. He performed at weddings and boat launches well into old age, and even featured as the star turn on at least two CDs of Carriacou music marketed around the world. What he lacked in technique he made up for with his dedication to retaining the old culture of Carriacou, which is known for its especially strong African tradition. As a result, the islanders called him, reverentially, “Old Head”.

· Canute Caliste, artist, born April 16 1914; died November 20 2005

British Ballads in the Caribbean

August 21, 2012

Excerpt from John Storm Roberts’ notes to “Under the Coconut Tree  – Music from Grand Cayman and Tortola,” (Original Music, 1982)

“Though recent music from both islands is heavy in calypsos… the traditional styles of both Grand Cayman and Tortola are fairly unusual in that they contain many purely British survivals and no purely African ones… In the case of Grand Cayman, this is presumably explained by the fact that there were no plantations on the island and only a fairly small number of domestic slaves, so that the percentage of people of African descent was relatively low.

The very strong British strain in Tortolan music is more baffling. Not only did the island have sugar plantations, and therefore a high African population, but a kind of ex-slaves’ revolt shortly after Emancipation caused virtually all the British settlers to leave. For almost 100 years, Tortola remained a de facto independent black state, British in theory but hardly at all in practice. Yet we found far more British survivals in Tortola than in Grand Cayman.”

“The Butcher Boy,” sung by Melcena Smith And Elias Fazer (from Tortola):