William Ruhlmann, Rovi
"Rum and Coca-Cola," however, was but one of many songs that the singer performed and recorded. As with many other calypso singers of that and other eras, Lord Invader was skilled at devising songs with social and political commentary, as well as singing more conventional lyrics based on romantic situations, or based upon traditional folk songs. From the mid-'40s through the early '60s, he recorded off and on for Moe Asch of Folkways Records, and during that period he was performing and recording in New York, London, and Europe. A compilation of 26 tracks Lord Invader did for Asch -- some with his Calypso Group, some with full and somewhat jazzy bands -- was issued by Smithsonian Folkways in 2000.
Richie Unterberger, Rovi
Mark A. Humphrey, Rovi
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Craig Harris, Rovi
Like Hank Williams, Choates balanced his musical talents with painful struggle in his real life. An acute alcoholic, he sold the rights to "Jole Blon" for $100 and a bottle of whiskey. His habit of missing concerts led him to be blacklisted by the musicians union in San Antonio and resulted in his band breaking up. His death was equally tragic. Failing to make support payments of $20 a week for his son and daughter following his divorce, he was jailed by a judge who found him in contempt of court. After three days of being forced to curtail his drinking habit, he began beating his head against the cell bars and fell into a coma. He died a few days later on July 17, 1951.
Born in either Rayne or New Iberia, LA, Choates moved to Port Arthur, TX, with his mother in the 1930s. Rather than going to school, Choates spent much of his childhood in bars and taverns, listening to honky tonk and blues records on the jukebox. By the age of 12, Choates was playing fiddle in barbershops for tips.
Launching his professional music career in Cajun bands led by Leo Soileau and Leroy "Happy Fats" LeBlanc, Choates formed his own group, the Melody Boys, in 1946. The same year, he rewrote the classic Cajun tune, "Jolie Blonde," for his daughter, Linda, and recorded it for the Gold Star label. Although the tune became a country hit when covered by Aubrey "Moon" Mullican, Choates had given up all rights to the song and received no further compensation for his composition. Choates and the Melody Boys continued to record at a prolific rate, releasing more than two dozen songs for Gold Star in 1946 and 1947. Adapting the Western swing of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys to Cajun music, Choates became known as "the fiddle king of Cajun swing."
Although he performed with Jesse James & His Gang on radio station KTBC after the disbanding of the Melody Boys in 1951, Choates suffering ended a few months later. His grave was left unmarked until 1980, when money was raised for a gravestone with the bilingual inscription, "Purrain de la Musique Cajun -- The Godfather of Cajun Music." In the mid-'60s, Cajun musician Rufus Thibodeaux was one of the first to pay homage to Choates' influence when he recorded an album of Choates' songs, A Tribute to Harry Choates.
Craig Harris, Rovi
Joe and Bill made their recording debut the following year in New York for ARC; they became the label's most popular duo during this era. That year, they also began appearing on WWNC Asheville, North Carolina. During their recording career, the Callahans moved to several different radio stations, including WHAS Louisville, Kentucky and WWVA Wheeling, West Virginia. Some of the Callahans' most popular tunes include "Little Poplar Log House" and country standard "She's My Curly Headed Baby." In addition to performing their own songs, the two also covered the songs of other performers.
In 1940 the Callahans moved to Oklahoma to briefly work at a radio station in Tulsa. The following year they moved to KRLD Texas and spent the rest of the decade there and at KWFT Wichita Falls, Texas. The duo signed to Decca but didn't release many singles, instead recording transcriptions for the Dallas-based Sellers Company which were usually played on the radio. In 1945, the brothers went to Hollywood to make a movie, Springtime in Texas with Jimmy Wakely. Afterward they did a nationwide promotional tour with the cowboy crooner. Later Bill went on an Eastern tour with Ray Whitely and in 1947 recorded a solo for Cowboy Records in Philadelphia. Four years later, the Callahans became Lefty Frizzell's opening act and recorded eight singles for Columbia.
Later, Joe went back to Asheville and became a grocer while Bill stayed in Dallas to become a photographer; he occasionally returned to music as a bass player or a comic. The brothers briefly reunited in Dallas during the mid-'60s to do a few shows, but by this time Joe's health was failing and he soon returned to North Carolina. He died in 1971. Bill retired and remained in Dallas.
Sandra Brennan, Rovi
What is clear, however, is that he grew up mostly in Trinidad, eventually taking Houdini as a performing name. That was the name he was going by in 1916 when he became a chantwell (lead singer) for the African Millionaires, a 25-person street carnival group in Trinidad. In the mid-'20s he worked aboard ocean freighters, visiting North and South America, Europe, and Africa, finally landing in New York around 1927, where he seemingly immediately began recording calypso pieces with local jazz and string bands like Gerald Clark's Night Owls, including the interesting LP Harlem Seen Through Calypso Eyes, which was released by Decca Records in 1940.
Houdini was incredibly prolific, composing reportedly thousands of songs, many of them brilliant, spur-of-the-moment constructions, and he released well over a hundred different 78s between 1928 and 1940. A song Houdini had recorded in 1939, "He Had It Coming," was covered by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan as "Stone Cold Dead in the Market" in 1946 and shot to the top of the R&B charts, where it remained for five weeks, even crossing over to reach number seven on the pop charts. The success of the song brought Houdini a great deal of attention, and he used his high-profile situation to promote and organize a series of calypso concerts and festivals in the city, and he was greatly respected within New York's Caribbean community for his efforts (although in Trinidad he was often targeted in local calypso songs as an outsider -- leading to Houdini's 1934 retort called "Declaration of War").
Houdini died on August 6, 1977, in New York, and if it turns out he wasn't actually born in the city, he certainly spent most of his life there. Both Brunswick and Folklyric released roughly the same set of Houdini 78s recorded between 1928 and 1940 as an LP (called Songs of Trinidad by the former label and Calypso Classics from Trinidad by the latter), and the Folklyric set was reissued on LP in 1984 by Arhoolie Records, then re-released by Arhoolie on CD under the title Poor But Ambitious in 1993 with an additional eight tracks that Houdini recorded in the mid-'40s added.
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The roots that grew into Kalama's Quartet were planted by a trio that Hanapi formed in 1926 with ukulele player William Kalama and harp-guitarist Bob Nawahine. This group recorded several singles as the Hanapi Trio. With the addition of guitarist/vocalist Dave Kaleipua Munson, in late 1927, the group became Kalama's Quartet. Although a second steel guitarist, Bob Matsu, joined in 1928, the name was not changed.
Kalama's Quartet became known for their silken vocal harmonies. With Hanapi alternating between tenor and falsetto, the harmonies were flushed out by Kalama on tenor, Munson on baritone, and Nawahine on bass. The group remained together for a short period. After recording several tunes for OKeh between 1927 and 1931, they completed their recording career with four tracks recorded for Victor in January 1932.
Following the disbanding of the group, Kalama, Nawahine, Munson, and Matsu faded into obscurity. After recording a disc under his own name, Hanapi opened a musical instruction school in Hawaii in 1938. Two years later, he joined the Royal Hawaiian Band, for whom he played first saxophone until his death in 1959.
Craig Harris, Rovi
In 1938, Lomax turned to jazz, recording more than eight hours of vocals, instrumentals, and spoken recollections from one of the founders of the form, Jelly Roll Morton. A year later, he premiered "American Folk Songs," a 26-week historical overview broadcast as part of the CBS radio series "American School of the Air"; Lomax also continued to write and direct special broadcasts promoting the war effort in the months ahead. In 1946, he sat down with Memphis Slim, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Big Bill Broonzy to explore the origins and philosophy of the blues, issuing the sessions in 1959 as Blues in the Mississippi Night; he spent the remainder of the decade recording prison songs in the Mississippi area, and in 1948 became host and writer of the Mutual Broadcasting Network series "On Top of Old Smokey". In 1950, Lomax relocated to England, where he remained for much of the decade; there he documented the traditional music of the British Isles, with his recordings becoming the basis of the ten-disc 1961 series Folksongs of Great Britain. During the same period, he also made extensive field recordings in Spain and Italy.
Lomax returned to the States in 1959, and immediately made another expedition into the South, where he discovered, among others, bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell. A year later, he published the book Folk Songs of North America; a six-month field trip to the West Indies followed in 1962, and there he recorded traditional musics from the English-, French-, and Spanish-speaking people of the Caribbean, as well as the Hindu culture of Trinidad. In 1967, Lomax teamed with Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger for the book Hard Hitting Songs for Hard-Hit People; Folk Song Style and Culture, the product of his years of world music study, followed in 1968. The advent of new technologies opened up new worlds for Lomax, and in the '70s and '80s he made a series of journeys back to the South to videotape traditional musical performances for the PBS series "American Patchwork", completed and broadcast in 1990. At the same time he continued work on the Global Jukebox -- an "intelligent museum" interactive software project -- and put the finishing touches on 1993's The Land Where the Blues Began, which won a National Book Award. Throughout the '90s and into the 21st century, Rounder Records steadily worked toward reissuing a 100-CD series showcasing Lomax's most legendary field recordings, generating a newfound audience for his scholarly efforts in ethnomusicology. Alan Lomax continued his work lecturing, writing, and working with the Association for Cultural Equity until his death at the age of 87 on the morning of July 19, 2002. Fortunately for archivists and music lovers everywhere, his painstaking documentation of the music and cultures of the world will be educating and enriching the lives of curious listeners for centuries to come.
Jason Ankeny, Rovi