Date recorded: December 21, 1946
Setting: Calypso At Midnight concert, Town Hall
Physical form: Reel to Reel
Tape number: TD227
Track Number: 60
Archive ID: TD227R60
Note: Notes from Rounder Records release "Calypso After Midnight" read: "Minus the verse relating to Isaac Woodard, this song had been published in People's Songs earlier in the year and had achieved some popularity by the time of the concert (People's Songs, Vol. 1, No. 6, July 1946, p. 7). Lord Invader added the Woodard section in response to the acquittal, in November 1946, of Linwood Shull, chief of police in Batesburg, South Carolina. In February, Shull ordered Woodard from a bus in which he was traveling home after being discharged from the army. Shull beat Woodard and gouged out his eyes, blinding him for life (Philip S. Foner, ed., Paul Robeson Speaks, London: Quartet, 1978, p. 552). Composed by Lord Pretender ('Hits Scored by Calypso Singers,' Sunday Guardian [Trinidad], January 17, 1943, p. 5), the original suggests that Preddy's [Pretender's] lyrics may have been edited by one of the middle-class calypso songwriters in Trinidad. It would not have been uncommon at the time for calypsonians to take a poem they had written to someone with more formal education to help brush up the syntax (much like Hank Williams of country music fame, whose lyrics were helped considerably by Fred Rose). The song was extremely successful, Lord Invader won a contest with it the following year and was apparently awarded a prize of some kind. Back in Trinidad, Lord Pretender, the composer, commented, 'He brought [me] a kinda gold wire tie pin marked 'Pretender,' with the usual promise [i.e., but with no money].' (Donald Hill, Calypso Calaloo: Early Carnival Music in Trinidad, Gainsville: University Press of Florida, 1993, p. 165). The American songster Huddie Ledbetter, better known as 'Leadbelly,' learned this song from Lancelot, the Duke of Iron , or perhaps Lord Invader. In true American songster tradition, he altered the lyrics to make it his own: 'Equality for Negroes' or 'Nobody in This World Is Better Than Us' (Charles Wolfe and Kip Lornell, The Life and Legend of Leadbelly, New York: HarperCollins, 1992, p. 245). 'God Made Us All' was recorded by Lord Invader for Disc (5080) in 1947 (People's Songs, Vol. 2, Nos. 6-7, July-August 1947, p. 8)."
Belongs to: New York City 12/46
About the session: A live recording of "Calypso At Midnight," a concert held at Town Hall, New York City, on December 21, 1946. Learning that Town Hall could be rented cheaply after regular theater hours, Alan Lomax produced a late-night concert series called The Midnight Special, which was thematically organized as "Blues At Midnight," "Ballads At Midnight," etc., and sponsored by the People's Songs Collective. The calypso concert recordings, made at Lomax's request and later found by chance in a closet by Bess Lomax Hawes, may be the only extant documents of this series. "This concert is a fascinating document of an American presentation of Trinidadian calypso at a time when interest in the genre was spreading from New York City into the mainstream of popular music in the United States" (Donald R. Hill and John H. Cowley, Calypso At Midnight [Rounder CD 1860])
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