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Calypso and Calypsonians in North America, 1934-1961

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Giving Thanks for an American Calypso Pioneer

Posted by Michael Eldridge on November 26, 2010

Wilmouth Houdini, "Harlem Seen Through Calypso Eyes"

The first anniversary of this blog came and went unmarked, and I blame it on Ray Funk, who’s been cracking the whip to get me to finish editing his manuscript for the book portion of a planned “Calypso Craze” box set for Bear Family records.  (I’m working as fast as I can, Ray!)  On a wee-hours-of-the-morning break from these labors—my way of making lemonade from the lemons of post-Thanksgiving Day insomnia—I discovered, courtesy of the “On This Day in Jazz Age Music” blog, that I’d just missed another anniversary:  the birthday of Wilmoth Houdini, who was supposedly born on November 25th, 1895 in Port of Spain.  (He rests in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.)

Houdini himself wrote some fine calypsos about food (cf. “Hot Dogs Made Their Name”), but I’ll commemorate his birthday with an excerpt from Caresser’s calypso “Thanksgiving,” written in Canada in the late 1940s:

From early morn till evening
It was real rejoicing and feasting
[…]
I couldn’t even walk talk nor dance
I ate until I fell into a trance.

CHORUS: So much to drink so much to eat
I wish they keep it three times a week

I love my food-centered holidays, but once a year’s enough for me, thanks.  Now if you’ll excuse me: I’m going to take some Alka-Seltzer and get back to work.  (Soon come, Ray!)

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3 Responses to “Giving Thanks for an American Calypso Pioneer”

  1. […] for Harry Belafonte in the early 1960s, got his start in his father’s band. Though it was Wilmoth Houdini who crowned himself “King” of the New York calypsonians, in February 1947 Houdini, the […]

  2. […] it was Wilmoth Houdini who crowned himself “King” of the New York calypsonians, in July 1947 Houdini, the Duke of […]

  3. […] holiday isn’t whitewashed in a mendacious myth of inter-ethnic amity.  A few years back, I quoted a snippet of Lord Caresser’s “Thanksgiving Day,” composed when he himself was a fresh […]

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