Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Michael David Rudder, 6 May '53, Belmont, Port of Spain, Trinidad) Calypso artist, composer, painter, sculptor. Son of a chauffeur, eldest of five children; began singing '65 with the Solutions, imitating the Motown sound, 'the only black music we knew that really had symbolic force'. Performed solo '70 with own songs and pop songs of the period; turned to calypso late '70s, worked with Kitchener, joined band Charlie's Roots '80 as temporary replacement for lead vocalist Chris 'Tambu' Herbert; Rudder remained and somewhat overshadowed Tambu until '88 (see his entry). Brass bands (as they are known in Trinidad) like Charlie's Roots, Ed Watson and his Brass Circle, Sound Revolution, Fireflight etc perform at public fˆtes (pay party/dances) during carnival season and are hired by mas (masquerade) bands to provide music for revellers during the two-day parade of costume bands at the climax of carnival; customarily they covered the season's popular calypsos, but increasingly they play their own material; since Rudder's success some have done particularly well in the Road March stakes, i.e. Sound Revolution came third '87 with 'Shake It', Shandileer placed third '88 with 'Happy'. Charlie's Roots have longstanding association with controversial mas band leader and designer Peter Minshall (b '41, Georgetown, Guyana) and performed theme for his mas band Golden Calabash: 'Calabash' was arr. and sung by Rudder, a remake of 'In A Calabash' '50 by Mighty Killer (Cephas Alexander); it came third in the Road March contest '85, was incl. with 'Jump Up' (written by Rudder and Roots' mus. dir., arr. and keyboardist Pelham Goddard) on LP The Golden Calabash '85 on Charlie's, made in Rawlston 'Charlie' Charles's Rawlston Recording Studio in Brooklyn, NY prod. by Goddard with Rudder on lead vocals.

He performed in a calypso tent (Spektakula tent) for first time '86 and swept the board, winning Young Kings and Calypso Monarch titles, his songs 'Bahia Gyal' (Girl) and 'The Hammer' coming first and second in the Road March, 'The Hammer' also played by the winner of the National Panorama title (steel orchestra contest), the Catelli Trinidad All Stars. 'The Hammer' was co-written with Goddard; both incl. in Roots' LP The Hammer '86 on Charlie's, made at Coral Studio, Trinidad, Rudder sharing lead and background vocals with Tambu. He was not the first calypso artist to come from a pop/soul background: e.g. Errol Asche with Watson's Brass Circle and Ellsworth James (late '60s soul/R&B singer) preceded him; nor the first to eschew a calypso sobriquet (although Mighty Sparrow called him King David) but he was the most successful. Traditionalists incl. Kitch were critical, but Rudder himself was challenging the norms, making a distinction as 'calypso artist' as opposed to 'calypsonian'. Singles were issued on London Records in UK incl. remixes by Eddy Grant; winning '86 songs incl. in London compilation This Is Soca 2 '86. He made UK debut on BBC2 Arena programme Caribbean Nights mid-'86, followed by many UK appearances '86--7 and some media hype. He returned to the Spektakula tent '87 (Tambu entered in the same tent); as the previous year's winner he was automatically entitled to be incl. in finals; two-way battle with '86 runner- up Black Stalin (who had support of capacity Dimanche Gras Show crowd) saw him dethroned into second place. His 'Madness' placed second in the Road March, together with 'Calypso Music' and 'Dedication (A Praise Song)' was incl. in Roots' Calypso Music/10th Anniversary Album '87 on Lypsoland, made at Coral; the LP incl. guests Ralph McDonald on percussion (an American of Trinidadian descent, prominent in USA jazz/fusion scene) and virtuoso steel pannist Robert Greenidge (played with Taj Mahal, Grover Washington, John Lennon); most of these tracks (plus 'Bahia' again) were incl. in two-disc This Is Soca With David Rudder And Charlie's Roots '87 (the second disc incl. Stalin's winner 'Burn Dem'). In May '87 Stalin and Rudder appeared together at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, in August at London's Town and Country Club. After '87 Carnival Rudder resolved never to compete again: 'I entered the Calypso Monarch competition for exposure. I achieved my goal,' he explained in Spektakula Souvenir Magazine '89. Rejoined cast of Spektakula for '88 season; LP Haiti '88 on Lypsoland issued in UK on London incl. Tambu's '88 Road March winner; appeared in BBC2 Arena presentation All On A Mardi Gras Day '88; toured Europe '88. Dominated T&T's first annual NAFEITA music awards '88 by copping five awards incl. 'Best Selling Album' (for Haiti), 'Male Recording Artist of the Year'.

He played a rising calypsonian in six-part TV drama Sugar Cane Arrows '88; the theme was a song incl. on The Power And The Glory '89 on Lypsoland, which flopped, though Rudder thought it was his strongest work to date (only one track surfaced on UK compilation Calypso Season '89 on London, which complemented a video release on PMV). He performed the title track at an unprecedented experimental dramatic presentation of Minshall's '89 mas band Santimanitay at the National Stadium on Carnival Monday; the album incl. 'Arthur', a tribute to master arranger/musician Arthur De Coteau (1928--1987) who worked with Shadow, Sparrow, Kitchener and others. Rudder remained with Spektakula for '89 season, but response was lukewarm; sang at funeral of C. L. R. James (1901--1989; Marxist historian, literary critic, political activist, cricket philosopher). Pre- released four-track Sketches for '90 Carnival, material incorporated in post-Carnival album 1990, both on Lypsoland (UK release on London); title track became unofficial theme of five-day siege of Trinidad Parliament and broadcasting studios led by Abu Bakr '90. He appeared in Hollywood movie set in Rio Wild Orchid '90; single from it 'Dark Secret' (incl. on 1990) featured Brazilian singer Margareth Menezes. Rough And Ready '91 incl. 'my most important song to date': 'Hoosay' about '90 Trinidad coup attempt, winner of best calypso and best social commentary in Caribbean Music Awards; he was also named best male artist. Issued celebratory Frenzy '92; wrote lyrics for 'Savannah Party' performed by '92 Panorama winners Exodus steel orch. (their arr. Goddard wrote the music). Penned lyrics of metaphorical classic 'Dus' In Deh Face' (on LP Ministry Of Rhythm '93 on Lypsoland) for Exodus, whose performance of co- writer Goddard's arrs placed third in '93 Panorama final. Here Comes The West Indies on Lypsoland was '94 LP offering. Lyrics Man '95 on Lypsoland incl. 'Hallelujah' written for Minshall's controversial '95 mas band of that name, and humorous social commentary 'The Ballad Of Hulsie X' about politician Hulsie Bhaggan. Tales From A Strange Land '96 on Lypsoland incl. 'The Case Of The Disappearing Panyards' which Exodus took to tied third place in Panorama final. The shortness of the '97 season and frustration with T&T's current musical trend ('There is a kind of frenzy which I just can't relate to ... it's just reflecting emptiness') deterred Rudder from releasing a full album, so Wrapped In Plain Brown Paper on Lypsoland had only four tracks incl. hit social commentary 'Motilal'.