The Duke of Iron

Wilmouth Houdini may have been the first major star of calypso to record extensively in the U.S., but the Duke of Iron became the leading exponent of calypso just as high-fidelity recording became commonplace. His particular combination of authenticity amd popular appeal both modernized and improved the sound of calypso at a crucial time. Other calypsonians of great originality, such as fellow New Yorker the Mighty Sparrow, owed him a huge debt. Born Cecil Anderson in Trinidad, the Duke of Iron learned music from his famous father and others. (His brother performed under the name Count of Monte Cristo.) Cecil came to the United States and made New York City his new home in 1923.

In 1940 he began playing professionally at the Village Vanguard, and after ten months he headed west, touring until a triumphant return to New York in 1943. From then on he was King of Calypso and toured college campuses for some time until returning to Trinidad. There, he formed a new band and headed to Europe for a tour. He returned to New York at the height of the calypso craze (1956, the year Belafonte's debut eclipsed Elvis') to begin a long stint as headliner of the Jamaican Room.

On the LP Jungle Calypso, the Duke is accompanied by Modesto Calderon (bass player), Gregory Feliz, and Victor Pacheco. The latter two take turns at drums, violin, and clarinet. By the time of his Jamaican Room engagement, the Duke was playing quattro (four-stringed guitar) with a drummer, bassist, pianist, and two others doubling on sax and clarinet. He recorded for Victor as well as the jazz label Prestige (Limbo, Limbo, Limbo), which despite the name features strong original material and excellent recording by the peerless Rudy Van Gelder. His LPs typically include one or two steel-band instrumentals, but that should not pose no obstacle to their appreciation.

The trademark, distorted clarinet was as vital a part of the Duke's charm as his unique voice and phrasing. In case anyone could not make out the ribald lyrics --always sung very innocently, of course-- the clarinet's "dirty" tone told the story without irony. The clarinet is especially strong in the classic, swinging rocker, "The Big Bamboo," possibly the world's greatest song. "Parakeets," sung by the Duke of Iron (as well as the Talbot Brothers of Bermuda), is another of the earthy tunes for which calypsonians are notorious.

The Duke of Iron carried the true sound and many of the best calypso songs into the recording era, steadfastly refusing to modernize. The liner notes of the Calypso! LP quote the Duke as saying, "Calypso has a different rhythm all its own. It may resemble this and that at times, but it is in a class by itself where rhythm, style, and delivery is concerned. Some singers try to change Calypso but I try to keep it as it is." Thankfully, the Duke of Iron's calypso was recorded that way -- faithfully and extemporaneously.

Duke of Iron 10" LPs

8Jungle Calypso; Folksay FLP-10 (Stinson SLP-10; later reissued as 12" LP Stinson SLP-10)
8Duke of Iron & his Trinidad Calypso Troubadours: Calypso Carnival; Monogram MLP-800 (1st press: pink label, 2nd: yellow, 3rd: yellow w/black print; 1st jacket: yellow-background face, liners; 2nd jacket: white-background face, no liners; not the same as 12" 842!)
8Duke of Iron; Monogram MLP-812 (Virgin Island Calypsos; Virgin Isle Supertone VLP-401)

Partly Duke of Iron 10" LPs

9Calypso Magic 10"; Monogram/Supertone 802 (Duke of Iron, Lord Kitchener, MacBeth, Lord Invader; possibly reissued as 12" Monogram 820 w/Marie Bryant)
6Calypso Volume III; Stinson SLP-28 ("Small Island," "Matilda")
8Calypso/Meringues; Folkways FP-8; 1950 (FW-6808; SF-12192; w/Duke of Iron--"Druscilla," Lord Caresser, Lord Invader, Macbeth, Felix & his Internationals, Jazz Majestic Orchestra)
9Favorite Calypsos of the Virgin Isles 10"; Monogram 400 (Duke of Iron, Lord Kitchener, unknown;; same as Virgin Islands Calypso 10"; Virgin Isle Supertone VLP-400;; same as Virgin Islands Calypso 10"; R.C. Spenceley VLP-400)
8Various: Trinidad Calypso Kings; Monogram ML-801 (Duke of Iron, Lord Kitchener, Lord Invader, Mighty Terror, Johnny Attila, Innocentay & his Afro-Caribbeans, Casablanca Steel Orchestra)
8Various: Virgin Island Calypsos; R.C. Spencely VLP-400 (Duke of Iron sings 4 of 8 songs: One Gone, Big Bamboo, Creole Girl, I Left Her Behind for You)

[Partly] Duke of Iron 12" LPs

7The Duke of Iron: Calypso Carnival with the Duke of Iron; RCA Victor LPM-1386; 1957
8The Duke of Iron [& his Trinidad Calypso Troubadours]: Calypso Carnival featuring the Duke of Iron; Monogram 842 (compilation; only 2 cuts in common w/same-named 10" LP)
8The Duke of Iron & the Fabulous Steel Bands: Calypso!; Crowell-Collier Record Guild G-142; 1957 (compilation; reissues Monogram plus 2 steel-band instrumentals)
8The Duke of Iron Sings Calypsos; Sounds of the Caribbean SLP-730 (compilation; reissues Monogram; "We Are Afraid of Nobody" only song we don't find on earlier LP)
8The Duke of Iron: More Calypsos by the Duke of Iron; Sounds of the Caribbean SLP-747 (compilation; reissues Monogram; "Rock Cum Babe" sung by someone else, however)
7The Duke of Iron: Limbo, Limbo, Limbo; Status/Prestige International PR-13068
8The Duke of Iron: Jungle Calypso Volume 1; Stinson SLP-10; 1963 (reissues the 8-song 10" on red vinyl w/the original liner notes)
8Various: Calypso -- Volume II; Grand Award GA 33-357
Various: Calypso Jamboree; Paragon 603 (Monogram 603?)
8Various: Calypsos from the West Indies; Monogram 834
9Various: Calypsos Too Hot to Handle; Monogram 837
9Various: Don't Touch Me Tomato; Sounds of the Caribbean SLP-727 (reissues Calypsos Too Hot to Handle except Lloyd Thomas' "Mary Had No Little Lamb" replaces Duke of Iron's "Postman")
9Various: Favorite Calypso Songs; Monogram 608 (or Paragon; Duke of Iron, Charmer, Lloyd Thomas, Kitchener, Invader)

Duke of Iron 7" 45s

The Naughty Fly/Tie Up Me Dress; Monogram M-834
One Gone (1952 Hit Song of Trinidad)/Big Bamboo; Monogram M-836
Music Lesson/Parakeets/Big Bamboo; Monogram M-837
Music Lesson/I Left Her Behind for You; Monogram M-850
Last Train/Loving Woman is Waste of Time; Monogram M-851
7Kockeemoonga (means you are a dope)/Mambo Calypso; Monogram M-853
Fire Down There/Clear De Road; Monogram M-855
Zets Calypso/Gefeeltah Fish; Monogram M-856
Rice and Tanya/Song of Cecilia; Monogram M-858
Big Bamboo/One Gone; Monogram M-863
Parakeets/Monkey See Monkey Do; Monogram M-865
Postman/Man Smart, Woman Smarter; Monogram M-872
7Coldest Woman/Sally Waters; Monogram M-873
Samson & Delilah/Woman Police in Trinidad; Monogram M-920
Wide Screen/Merengue Jenny; Monogram M-934
Meringue Jam/[unknown]; Monogram M-944
Creole Girl/Easy Fish; Monogram
Man Centipede/Calypso Samba; Monogram (also on MEP-100)
Man Smart/Medley of Brown Skin Girl & Mary Anne; Monogram
Monkey Calypso/Undercover Man; Monogram

[Partly] Duke of Iron 7" EPs

8Calypso Magic; Monogram MEP-100 (Man Smart--Woman Smarter, Woman Police, Man Centipede, Calypso Samba; Ritmo EP-100)
Trinidad Steel Band; Monogram MEP-103 (Duke's "castayan" Trinidad waltzes)
Various; Monogram MEP-104 (1 Duke of Iron cut)
8The Duke of Iron & Vocal Group/Lou Monte; RCA Victor DJ-89 (promo; "Take Me" & "Prisoner Arise/Prizonaire Leve"; Monte: "Calypso Italiano")

Duke of Iron 10" 78s

7Convoy/Calypsonian Invasion; Apollo 106
Duke of the Calypso/Jam Session; Stinson 105
Mickey Cipriani/Rookoombey; Stinson 1051

Duke of Iron in Film

Calypso Joe; starring Herb Jeffries & his Calypsomaniacs with the Duke of Iron, Lord Flea, Terry Gilkyson, Lady T, the Lester Horn Dancers, Angie Dickinson, Edward Kemmer, & Laurie Mitchell; Allied Artists; color; 1957?; anyone with access, please contact us

Duke of Iron on Television

The Tonight Show; appeared no later than 1964; group included Montego Joe (Roger A. Sanders); anyone with access, please contact us

Duke of Iron in Fiction

Mike Avallone: The Voodoo Murders; Fawcett; 1957

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