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Trini music band on US Govt Top 50 list

By Terry Joseph
February 03, 2003

A 1912 recording of the song "Manuelita", performed by Lovey's Trinidad String Band, has been included in the US Government's inaugural 'Top-50' list of recordings to be preserved in perpetuity by the Library of Congress.

The US National Recording Registry endorsement comes in the wake of last September's decision by Britain's Royal Archives to include the calypso "The Royal Tour" by Roaring Lion on a commemorative CD marking Queen Elizabeth's golden anniversary.

A product of the National Recording Preservation Act passed by the US Congress in 2000, the registry invited nominations from a group of music and sound-archive professionals and from the general public.

At last Monday's announcement of first inductees, Librarian of Congress, James Billington said American audio heritage is in danger.

"The archive was created to preserve recordings that are culturally, historically or aesthetically significant," Billington said, lamenting the neglect and subsequent loss of wax-cylinder originals of gems like "Duke Ellington from the Cotton Club" and "Artie Shaw with Billie Holiday."

Lovey's work ranks as the only listed recording by a non-American, in a gathering that includes Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, The Great Caruso, George Gershwin, Bessie Smith, Cannonball Adderley, Bob Dylan, the father of gospel music Thomas Dorsey, and latter-day rap pioneers, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.

Born George Bailey (no relation to the legendary mas designer/producer), bandleader Lovey recorded "Manuelita" for Columbia during a tour of New York. Canadian collector/ researcher of Trini music, Ray Funk was among few who knew about the band or its work.

Funk's research indicated that a couple of early recordings by Lovey's Trinidad String Band are available on CD anthologies, one among them a Rounder album of calypso pioneers, 1912-1937, which also featured work from bands led by Lionel "Lanky" Belasco, Julian Whiterose, Sam Manning, Phil Madison and Gerald Clarke and His Night Owls, with calypsoes by Houdini, Executor and Atilla the Hun.

A Harlequin label production titled Trinidad 1912-1941 also features Lovey's Trinidad String Band doing "Manuelita" and includes cuts by Jack Celestain and His Caribbean Stompers, Harmony King's Orchestra, Codallo's Top Hatters, Georgie Johnson and His Rhythm Kings and Roaring Lion and King Radio as leading vocalists with a number of bands.

In a 1993 research paper, anthropologist Donald R Hill of the department of African/ Latino studies at State University College (Orneata, New York) writes: "Very early in the 20th Century, New York became a centre for putting calypsoes on record; in fact, calypso was recorded in New York two years before it was recorded in Trinidad by George Bailey, professionally known as 'Lovey,' in June 1912.

"Lovey's Band was made up entirely of stringed instruments; they played calypsoes and related styles. Back home in Trinidad Lovey's Band was the leading string band to play for colonial balls and other elite events.

During the Carnival season, Lovey played for these official gigs as well as for ethnic associations, such as the Portuguese Club.

"Fortunately for lovers of Afro-Caribbean music, their sound was distinctly 'hot' and they were probably similar to other, lesser known bands that roamed the streets during Carnival or fronted masquerade bands."

After decades of disregard in his native land, Lovey's Trinidad String Band now shares a space in history with the likes of Les Paul and Mary Ford, pioneers of the over-dubbing technique of recording, Charlie Parker, Ray Charles, Igor Stravinsky and Duke Ellington; representing the Trini rhythm in a collection that features virtually every music genre from classical to avant garde to jazz.

Billington said 50 recordings will be added to the list each year.


(In Chronological Order)

1. Edison Exhibition Recordings (Group of three cylinders): "Around the World on the Phonograph"; "The Pattison Waltz;" "Fifth Regiment March."(1888-1889)

2. The Jesse Walter Fewkes field recordings of the Passamaquoddy Indians. (1890)

3. First recording of "Stars and Stripes Forever" Military Band. Berliner

Gramophone disc recording (1897) by Emile Berliner, inventor of the 78-rpm disc.

4. Lionel Mapleson cylinder recordings of the Metropolitan Opera.


5. Scott Joplin ragtime compositions on piano rolls. Scott Joplin, piano. (1900s)

6. Booker T. Washington's 1895 Atlanta Exposition Speech. (1906 recreation)

7. "Vesti la giubba" from Pagliacci. Enrico Caruso. (1907)

8. "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." Fisk Jubilee Singers. (1909), who established the black spirituals genre in the history of American music.

9. Lovey's Trinidad String Band recordings for Columbia Records. (1912)

10. "Casey at the Bat." DeWolf Hopper, reciting. (1915)

11. "Tiger Rag." Original Dixieland Jazz Band. (1918), the first commercial recording.

12. "Arkansas Traveler" and "Sallie Gooden." Eck Robertson, fiddle. (1922), the first country music recording.

13. "Down-Hearted Blues." Bessie Smith. (1923)

14. "Rhapsody in Blue", George Gershwin, piano; Paul Whiteman Orchestra. (1924)

15. Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings.(1925-1928)

16. Victor Talking Machine Company sessions in Bristol, Tennessee. Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Ernest Stoneman, and others. (1927)

17. Harvard Vocarium record series. T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, others, reciting. (1930-1940s)

18. Highlander Center Field Recording Collection. Rosa Parks, Esau Jenkins, others. (1930s-1980s)

19. Bell Laboratories experimental stereo recordings. Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski, conductor. (1931-1932)

20. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's radio "Fireside Chats." (1933-1944)

21. New Music Recordings series. Henry Cowell, producer. (1934-1949)

22. Description of the crash of the Hindenburg. Herbert Morrison, reporting. (1937)

23. "Who's on First." Abbott and Costello's first radio broadcast version. (1938)

24. "War of the Worlds." Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater. (1938)

25. "God Bless America." Kate Smith. Radio broadcast premiere. (1938)

26. The Cradle Will Rock. Marc Blitzstein and the original Broadway cast. (1938)

27. The John and Ruby Lomax Southern States Recording Trip. (1939)

28. Grand Ole Opry. First network radio broadcast. Uncle Dave Macon, Roy Acuff, and others. (1939)

29. "Strange Fruit." Billie Holiday. (1939)

30. Duke Ellington Orchestra "Blanton-Webster Era" recordings. (1940-1942)

31. Bela Bartok, piano, and Joseph Szigeti, violin, in concert at the Library of Congress. (1940)

32. Rite of Spring. Igor Stravinsky conducting the New York Philharmonic. (1940)

33. "White Christmas." Bing Crosby, (1942), still the best selling single of all time.

34. "This Land is Your Land." Woody Guthrie. (1944)

35. General Dwight D. Eisenhower's D-Day radio address to the Allied Nations. (1944)

36. "Koko." Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and others. (1945)

37. "Blue Moon of Kentucky." Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. (1947)

38. "How High the Moon." Les Paul and Mary Ford. (1951)

39. Elvis Presley's Sun Records sessions. (1954-1955)

40. Songs for Young Lovers. Frank Sinatra. (1954)

41. Dance Mania. Tito Puente. (1958)

42. Kind of Blue. Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, and others. (1959)

43. "What'd I Say," parts 1 and 2. Ray Charles. (1959)

44. "I Have a Dream." Speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963)

45. Freewheelin'. Bob Dylan. (1963)

46. "Respect!" Aretha Franklin. (1967)

47. Philomel: for soprano, recorded soprano, and synthesized sound. Bethany Beardslee, soprano. (1971)

48. Precious Lord: New Recordings of the Great Gospel Songs of Thomas A. Dorsey. Thomas Dorsey, Marion Williams, and others. (1973)

49. Crescent City Living Legends Collection (WWOZ Radio/New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation). (1973-1990)

50. "The Message." Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. (1982)

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