The Talbot Brothers of Bermuda
|The Talbot Brothers|
The Talbot Brothers wase a musical group based in Bermuda that was among the most popular calypso performers of the 1950s. The band was composed of brothers Archie (lead singer, acoustic guitar, harmonica), Austin (acoustic guitar, harmonica), Bryan, a.k.a. "Dick" (tipple, a large, 10-stringed ukulele), Ross, a.k.a. "Blackie" (electric guitar) and Roy Talbot (bass), and their cousin Cromwell "Mandy" Mandres (accordion).
Early Life and background
The four brothers were the sons of Osmond Charles Fanshaw Talbot and Mamie Susan Kennedy Augusta Lambert, with an extended family centred in Tucker's Town (the only part of the Main Island that lies within St. George's Parish) and eastern Hamilton Parish, between Bailey's Bay and Paynter's Vale. Talbots had lived in this area since at least the 18th Century, and the brothers were related by descent to many other families of this area, including the Newbold, Seon, and Outerbridge families.
The Talbots were the first of Bermuda’s many notable singing groups to gain international acclaim. With a population of fewer than 20,000 scattered over numerous islands totalling 21 square miles, Bermuda had no professional musicians or theatres until the advent of tourism during the latter 19th Century. The tourism industry was pioneered by wealthy visitors from North America, such as Samuel Clemens and Princess Louise, who would winter in Bermuda. New large hotels were built to cater to them, notably the Hamilton Hotel (completed in 1863), the Princess Hotel (completed in 1885), and the St. George's Hotel, and these created employment opportunities for professional musicians. Beyond the hotels, public entertainment relied primarily upon amateur theatrics and Music hall-type performances, notably by soldiers assigned to the Bermuda Garrison.
After the First World War, Bermuda's tourism industry went through considerable change as Prohibition led to a flood of affluent middle class visitors seeking sun and alcohol, and Bermuda became a summer rather than a winter destination. The large urban hotels were replaced by resorts sandwiched between private beaches and golf courses, such as the Castle Harbour Hotel, built near Paynter's Vale in the 1920s, and the Elbow Beach Hotel. The construction of the Castle Harbour Hotel (completed in 1931) and the related Mid-Ocean Club had resulted in the forced relocation of the inhabitants of Tucker's Town, with their homes replaced by golf links. The families that had lived there, including the Talbots, were mostly been resettled in Smith's Parish, near Devil's Hole and John Smith's Bay, where Talbot Lane is found today. Bermuda's new visitors demanded entertainments that the genteel community was ill-equipped to provide, including a new type of music. Musical tastes in Bermuda were little different from North America and Britain. West Indian musicians were consequently brought in by the hotels, and local musicians quickly adopted the Calypso they brought with them. The entertainments provided for tourists through the hotels remained separate and quite different, however, from the entertainments that catered to Bermudians, which still relied largely upon amateurs performing in church halls and similar venues.
The Talbots organized in 1942 and performed a variation of Trinidadian calypso in a smooth melodic style influenced by popular music. They performed and recorded cover versions of calypso classics in addition to many of their own originals. They became a popular attraction in local hotels, but it was an early recording they made in the United States that made them even more popular in their homeland, and heralded fame beyond their shores. Bermuda Buggy Ride, according to the essay "Gombeys, Bands and Troubadours" on Bermuda’s official website...
...brought them wide recognition in the USA, and made them the group tourists most wanted to see. The song was a swing ballad and was actually written… in a buggy en route to Tom Moore’s Tavern. A young student from Yale was in the buggy, and he seems to have had a hand in the evolution of the song. On arriving at their destination, the musicians rehearsed the song until it was ready for performance that very day. It’s been riding along ever since.
Their popularity with American tourists resulted in tours of the U.S. starting in the early 1950s. Notable in their instrumentation was Roy Talbot’s home-made upright bass dubbed the "doghouse." Roy created the instrument out of a large meat-packing crate and a single fishing line. This item was a particular curiosity, and during the Talbots’ tours many of their fellow performers and visiting celebrities would autograph the crate.
The Talbots released 10" and 12" vinyl records on the small Audio Fidelity label in the mid-1950s before being signed to ABC Paramount Records in 1957, where they made two LPs that were more accessible in North America.
Bassist Roy Talbot, who died on May 15, 2009, was the last surviving brother.
Notable songs recorded by The Talbot Brothers include:
- "Atomic Nightmare" (Archie Talbot)
- "Back to Back (Zombie Jamboree)" (Lord Intruder)
- "Bermuda Buggy Ride" (Archie Talbot)
- "Bermuda Affair" (Archie Talbot)
- "Bermuda’s Still Paradise" (Ross Talbot)
- "Give an Ugly Woman Matrimony" (Ross Talbot - F. Reid)
- "Gonna Cut You with the Razor" (Archie Talbot - F. Reid)
- "Is She Is or Is She Ain’t" (The Charmer)
- "Last Train to San Fernando" (Mighty Dictator)
- "Nora, Nora" (Lord Kitchener)
- "She's Got Freckles On Her But She Is Nice" (no author listed; sometimes attributed to Larry Vincent)
- "You Can Go, But You’ll Return" (Archie Talbot - F. Reid)
- Bermuda Talbot Brothers in their favorite selections Jay 3009 (10")
- Bermuda Talbot Brothers ("Bermuda, Vol. 2"); Audio Fidelity AFLP-903 (10”)
- Bermuda Calypso Party ("Bermuda, Vol. 3"); Audio Fidelity AFLP-1807; c.1957
- Calypsos; ABC-Paramount ABC-156; 1957
- Calypso; ABC-Paramount A-156; 1957 (7" E.P.; excerpts from above)
- Talbot Brothers of Bermuda; ABC-Paramount ABC-214
- Talbot Brothers of Bermuda (Volumes 1-3); Talman (reissue)
- Bermuda Holiday; Polyphonic Records (Bermuda) FLP-2001
- Vinyl Safari
- Gombeys, Bands and Troubadours at www.gov.bm
- List of ABC-Paramount Records releases at bsnpubs.com
- Ross Blackie Talbot - Charity Invitational Golf Tournament
- Grimes, William. "Roy Talbot, Calypso Musician, Dies at 94", The New York Times, May 23, 2009. Accessed May 24, 2009.