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
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
Myles Boisen, Rovi
Craig Harris, Rovi
The first Creole to be recorded, Ardoin is best remembered for his resonating, high-pitched vocals and sizzling-hot accordion playing. Although he only recorded 31 tunes, his compositions have been included in the repertoire of Cajun and zydeco bands ranging from Austin Pitre and Dewey Balfa to Beausoleil and C.J. Chenier. Iry LeJeune helped to launch a revival in Cajun music in the 1950s, when he recorded 12 of Ardoin's tunes.
The great-grandson of a slave, Ardoin moved, as a child, with his family to work on the Rougeau farm in L'Anse des Rougeau near Basile. While there, he frequented the homes of his friends Adam Fontenot, who played accordion and was later the father of fiddler Canray Fontenot, and Alphonse LaFleur, who played fiddle. Together with LaFleur or Douglas Bellard, a black fiddler from Bellaire Cove, Ardoin became a frequent performer at dances, playing mostly for white audiences who paid him $2.50 per night.
In his teens, Ardoin moved frequently, working for room and board. For a while, he worked as a sharecropper on Oscar Comeaux's farm near Chataignier. While there, he met Dennis McGee, a white fiddler from Eunice. One of the first biracial Cajun duos, Ardoin and McGee began to play at house parties, often attended by Ardoin's cousin, Bois-Sec Ardoin. When Comeaux sold the farm, the two musicians moved to Eunice, where they worked at Celestin Marcantel's farm. A lover of music, Marcantel often transported Ardoin and McGee to performances in his horse-drawn buggy.
Ardoin and McGee's recording debut came on December 9, 1929, when they cut seven tunes at a studio in New Orleans. They returned to the studio to record six songs on November 20 and 21, 1930. On August 8, 1934, they recorded six tunes at the Texas Hotel in San Antonio. Their fourth and final recording session, recorded at a New York studio on December 22, 1934, produced 12 new tunes. Their recordings were issued on the Brunswick, Vocalion, Decca, Melotone, and Bluebird labels.
Ardoin often performed with fiddler Sady Courville of Eunice. In the late '30s, they played every Saturday night at Abe's Palace in Eunice. Courville's mother, however, prevented them from recording together.
Ardoin's death remains shrouded in mystery. One report has him being brutally beaten after wiping his brow with a handkerchief handed to him by the daughter of a white farm owner. According to McGee, Ardoin was poisoned by a jealous fiddler. More recent studies have concluded that Ardoin died of venereal disease at the Pineville Mental Institution.
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.
Steve Leggett, Rovi