Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(Hollis Urban Lester Liverpool BA, MA, PhD, Dip. Ed. b 5 March '41, Teteron Bay, Chaguaramas, Trinidad) Calypsonian, historian, teacher, author, aka 'Chalkie'; described as 'unmusical' and a 'one tempo' calypsonian, his priority as a traditionalist has always been lyrical content, especially biting comment on taboo political, social and economic issues (his calypsos 'call names', stopping just short of libel) and highlighting Africa's heritage and contribution. He holds the record for being a National Calypso Monarch finalist more than any other calypsonian. Began primary education at Nelson Street Boys RC School, Port of Spain (POS), Trinidad, which he completed in Tobago after his family moved there c'49; after family's return to Trinidad, received six years' secondary education at St Mary's College, POS, where he began composing '54 for intercollegiate football matches; started teaching after leaving St Mary's; commenced teacher training '64 at Government Training College, POS, winning college's Calypso King title '65--6; graduated from University of West Indies '73. Placed third in both National Buy Local Competition '66 (sponsored by Trinidad and Tobago's [T&T] then ruling party People's National Movement [PNM]; Chalkie later won contest '71--2, '74--6) and final of Holly's Scouting For Talent radio programme '66. Turned pro at government-run Carnival Development Committee's (CDC) Calypso Theatre calypso tent performing 'Making The Greens'. Debuted in National Calypso Monarch final '68, coming third with 'Brain Drain' and 'Devaluation' (both issued on his first single); Ministry of Education and Culture sacked him from his teaching post for doing another job (performing) without prior permission; others incl. Lord Pretender supported him; defended himself '69 with 'Reply To The Ministry' and was reinstated that year. Made album debut with First Time Around '73, first in a long series on Straker's; followed up with Stay Up '74, To Spree With Love '75. Won Calypso Monarch for first time '76 with 'Three Blind Mice' and title track of Ah Put On Me Guns Again; retained Calypso Monarch crown '77 singing 'Juba Dubai' and 'Shango Vision', issued Teacher, Commoner And King '77; defended Monarch title '78 with 'That Good, That Bad' and 'Mastana Bahar' (from Calypso Vs Soca), but placed fifth. He released Origins '79, but didn't reach final that year; published his Diploma in Education dissertation Carnival In Trinidad And Tobago: Its Implications For Education In Secondary Schools '79; said CDC judges should resign when not selected for '80 final despite strength of 'Bring The Ayatollah' and 'Uncle Sam Own We' from Flipside '80 on Charlie's. Won Calypso Monarch '81 with 'My Kind Of Worry' and 'Ah Can't Make' (latter issued on 12]im[ single); was dethroned into seventh place '82 with 'How To Sing Calypso' and 'Respect We Ting'. Departed from 'one tempo' image with tuneful and jumpy Road March contender 'Ash Wednesday Jail' (from With A Bang '83 back on Straker's; song was later rumoured to have been written by policeman/calypsonian Supreme Happiness), but sacrificed his commitment to content for banal lyrics; it became the first Chalkie tune in the 20-year history of the National Panorama Competition to be played by a steel orchestra, earning Casablanca second place in the final; he took the song and 'Let's Learn To Laugh' to tied fifth position in that year's Monarch final. Attained fifth place in Monarch final '84 singing 'They Ent African At All' and controversial 'Ram The Magician' (both from T&T top ten LP Kaiso With Dignity '84, issued on Hot Vinyl in UK); latter alienated a large number of African-descended Trinbagonians and PNM government members by advising Prime Minister George Chambers to recruit successful East Indian businessman Ram Kirpalani (now deceased) to assist in ruling the country.

During the '85 season his controversial 'Grandpa's Backpay' (from On A Blackboard Of Truth '85 on Straker's) named certain prominent French creole dynasties from whom he was entitled to 'back pay' accruing from his grandfather's underpaid labour in sugar cane and cocoa plantations; he didn't make the Monarch final that year, but made UK debut performing in the first Caribbean Calypso Tent at London's Shaw Theatre in May. Reached fourth place in '86 Monarch final with 'Too Much Quacks' and title track of Port Of Spain Gone Insane; published booklet Kaiso And Society '86. Took 'The Drug Report' (not recorded) and 'We Kinda Leader', an open and critical assessment of Prime Minister A.N.R. Robinson from The Essence Of Calypso '87 on Lem's, to fifth position in '87 Monarch final; published booklet Kaisonians To Remember '87. Decided to quit competitive arena '88, but changed his mind after fans urged him to return; came eighth in second King of Kings competition '88; marched off with fourth Calypso Monarch win '89 in his 18th final singing 'Chauffeur Wanted', a commentary aimed at Robinson, and 'Carnival Is The Answer', both incl. on Total Kaiso '89 on Straker's. Defended crown with 'Come Back Home' and 'Bush Yard' (from Field Marshall Of The People's Army '90) in '90 final, but only placed sixth with lacklustre performance blamed on his absence during season studying for his doctorate in USA. Issued Kicking for '91 season incl. 'You The Jury' commenting on '90 Trinidad coup attempt; composed new calypso 'One For The Savannah' for '92 final, but only managed fifth place. Beat Mighty Sparrow into second place with his fifth Monarch win '93 performing 'Misconceptions' (a 'bomb' composed during the week before the final and unavailable on record) and 'Kaiso Sick In The Hospital' (from Visions on Straker's); after '93 carnival returned to University of Michigan to complete his PhD. Failed to regain crown '94; wasn't selected for Monarch semi-finals '95, but placed sixth in '96 final with 'National Unity' and 'Man In The Garden Hiding', latter incl. in Controversy '96 on Straker's.