Sir Lancelot to end the weekend. Calypso is most likely buried in the backroom of musical memory, having been hugely popular in the early part of the 20th century and achieving mania status in the U.S. from the World War 2 period up to the late 1950s.
But in the 1940s, Calypso was THE hip music to listen to. Rural, raw and morally quaint, with double-entendres and a certain misogynist slat, even by 1950s standards, at first it was a novelty. but as time went on it gained a place with the audience and a home in most record collections.
One of those w ho had achieved the biggest popularity and was a major influence for artists to follow was Sir Lancelot.
Born Lancelot Victor Edward Pinard (March 24, 1902 – March 12, 2001) was a calypso singer and actor who used the name Sir Lancelot.Sir Lancelot played a major role in popularizing calypso in North America, and Harry Belafonte has acknowledged him as an inspiration and major influence. Pinard studied to be a pharmacist as a young man, and his family sent him to New York City to study medicine.However, after hearing a concert by the African American lyric tenor Roland Hayes he gave up his medical education to study singing and music, and soon was performing classical works. He began including calypso in his performances, and eventually became a full-time calypso singer. About this time, he met the Trinidadian band leader Gerald Clark, perhaps the most significant promoter of calypso in New York City. Clark asked him to record some calypso songs, and Pinard agreed. He made his debut as Sir Lancelot in 1940 at New York City’s Village Vanguard nightclub. He was a close friend of the photographer Seema Aissen Weatherwax, who took some of his first publicity photos. Sir Lancelot became a regular at the Village Vanguard, and by the 1940s “was widely considered the hottest calypsonian in the city.” His trademark became the tuxedo he wore in nearly every concert, and his popularity was nationwide for two decades. In the 1940s he returned home for the first time but was largely disowned by his family, which felt that his calypso singing had shamed them. Sir Lancelot wrote the calypso song “Shame & Scandal” (also known as “Fort Holland”) in response.
This album, recorded by the Keynote Records label in the early 1940s (before the recording ban) and was a big hit at the time. Here’s what he plays:
1. A Night In Central Park
2. Ugly Woman
3. Scandal In the Family
4. The Young Girls Today
5. The Century Of The Common Man
6. Trinidad In Changing
Maybe strange for some tastes, and might take some getting used to. It nonetheless is part of musical history and an aspect of popular culture that was very much a part of America during the War and Post-War years.
Give it a sample – can’t hurt.