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Calypso and Calypsonians in North America, 1934-1961

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Reblogging: Lancelot’s Island (The “Lost” Gilligan Calypso)

Posted by Michael Eldridge on January 22, 2014

Russell Johnson

Russell Johnson (from

I felt a pang of nostalgia last week, reading the obituary of actor Russell Johnson, and not only because my wife and I, soon after I took my first full-time academic job, went to a costume party as The Professor and Mary Ann.  No; as a kid I loved me some Bob Denver and some Jim Backus (Oh, Magoo! You’ve done it again!), but the woodenly hunky Johnson was secretly my favorite cast member of Sherwood Schwartz’s goofy ’60s sitcom.

Johnson’s passing leaves Dawn Wells and Tina Louise as the last survivors of the seven stranded castaways. Coincidentally, Louise’s engagement at New York’s Le Cupidon in June 1957 marked the end of that club’s six-month-long “calypso” policy (and the beginning of the end of the Calypso Craze). But strangely, as it turns out, that’s not the only Gilligan-calypso connection.

Geoff Dunn, who made the brilliant documentary Calypso Dreams a few years back (he’s reportedly “exploring” the possibility of a sequel–Yes, Please!), recently wrote a piece for the Trinidad Express which was picked up today by HuffPo and  The upshot: an intriguing footnote in television history and in the life of calypsonian Sir Lancelot (Lancelot Pinard), whose long career in radio, movies, and TV had plenty of odd twists already.  A score for the WWII anti-war cartoon “The Disillusioned Bluebird,” voice work as a bongo instructor on Father Knows Best…to these we can add “singer of the Gilligan’s Island theme song.”  Not the  bouncy ballad that most of my generation can belt out by heart (“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…”), but a calypso-esque version penned by Schwartz for the unaired pilot.

I’ve written about Lancelot before (full disclosure: Dunn links to one of my posts), but Dunn does it better.  At any rate, I don’t want to spoil the story, which you should read for yourself.  But since he doesn’t embed any of the pirate videos of the show’s original opening credits floating about on the YouTube seas, I will:

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