If political correctness is your bag, read no further, but if you like the frisson of a spicy tale told in a hushed whisper, my darling, read on.
Lord Kitchener made his name singing saucy and downright ribald calypsoes. His lyrics tell down-home stories of sexual derring-do, the stories of a naughty, but hugely loveable scallywag, and his wicked ‘Carry On’ exploits.
There are songs about randy bedbugs, anal sex, mothers-in law, the dimensions of a young lady’s figure, redheads and stolen nighties, just to name a few.
You can listen to a particular favourite of mine “My Wife’s Nightie” at the end of the post.
This sounds like a recipe for awful, sexist music but Dr. Kitch’s wit carries the day. He is cherished throughout the West Indies for his sharp, humourous delivery and for his bountiful charm. He spins his tales with great aplomb and they are truly hilarious. When Kitch spells out the battle of the sexes, he does it with genuine flair and brilliant observation. His rhymes are written with great character and verbal dexterity. They tread a knife edge, flirtatious and often titillating, but never overstep the mark into genuine offence.
Lord Kitchener known to his mother as Aldwyn Roberts won prizes for mathematics at school in Arima, Trinidad. At 6’2″, he was known as ‘the Bean’ for his gangly demeanour. He began writing calypsoes at the age of 10 and gained his first recognition as a musician in 1939 for a popular Kaiso, “Shops Close to Early“.
After the war, the Bean began performing again and took Arima by storm with “Mary, I Am Tired and Disgusted“. The Growling Tiger, another calypsonian, following the playful, but also serious tradition, given their slave roots, of assuming the nomenclature of nobility, comically christened him “Lord Kitchener”. The name stuck. Kitch went from strength to strength, in 1946 writing the first ever road march in the history of Calypso. “Jump in the Line” was later made world famous by Harry Belafonte.
In 1947 Lord Kitchener opened his own tent for carnival called the Young Brigade. In his own words, “It is now 8 o’clock the first opening night…we are all nervous, fearing that we may begin with an empty tent, but it was just the opposite…we were sold out.“
Building on his new-found success, Kitchener toured the Caribbean, teaching calypso in Jamaica for a spell before setting sail for Britain on the Emperor Windrush. Here he did not only play to Black audiences but took the British variety shows and music halls by storm culminating in his debut on the BBC.
From this moment, Lord Kitchener became an international star and ambassador for the new calypso sound, making highly successful forays into America and Europe, playing as many as three gigs a night to delighted fans.
Back in Trinidad, his fellow calypsonians were tempted to relax, thinking that the master had taken his eye off the ball. In Britain, Kitch was proving them wrong with “Cricket, Lovely Cricket” a tune celebrating the Windies’ first victory over England at Lords, a defining moment for the first West Indian immigrants. When Kitch returned replete with success to Trinidad he took the carnival tents by storm, proving once again that he was Lord and Master of all he surveyed.
The reason for his fans’ delight is immediately apparent when you hear Kitch’s charmingly saucy tunes. They are by turns intellingent, comic, subtle and bold, telling tales of sexual exploits, and candidly outlining both personal problems and international issues with equal irony and wit.
My Wife’s Nightie (YouTube track)
She came for one night with Kitchener,
she seems of a decent character,
but when I woke up in the morning,
my wife’s pretty nightie was missing.
Come back with my wife’s nightie,
Sister you know it’s dishonesty.
Come back with my wife’s nightie
I’m going to charge you for larceny.
She said she was cold and feeling sick,
I thought I should be sympathetic.
I took the responsibility,
to lend her my wife’s pretty nightie.
We had a few glasses of whisky,
and went to bed feeling merrily.
but when I got up from this romance,
looking for the girl, no appearance.
She said she came over to study,
her father is a major in the army.
I naturally had no suspicion,
when I hear the lady’s position.
My wife is now in the continent,
expects to be back any monent.
and what will be my explanation,
In facing this rough situation?
Come back with my wife’s nightie
Darling you taking a liberty.
Come back with my Wife’s nightie,
I am going to charge you for larceny.
Carnival Road Winner:
1946 “Jump in the Line”
1963 “The Road”
1964 “Mama dis is Mas”
1965 “My Pussin’ ”
1967 “Sixty Seven”
1968 “Miss Tourist”
1971 “Mas in Madison Square Garden”
1975 “Tribute to Spree Simon”
1976 “Flag Woman”