Brother Valentino

Brother Valentino: Life is a stage

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Staff Article
Interview Recorded: June 12, 2005
Posted: July 07, 2005

A man initiated me with a drink of whiskey

Brother Valintino, Peggy Castanada - Phillip and son Ade
Brother Valintino,
Peggy Castanada -
Phillip and son Ade

I want to go back to the tailoring part again, and how it all led to 'Brother Valentino'. The guy that I learned to do tailoring with used to give me a lot of things to do all the time. I couldn't learn to cut any pants, because when the tailors and them cut their pants, they will give it to you to put button holes and block it off, and also to make the folds and so on. That was all you would be learning to do. It was not making sense to me, because it was only buttonholes I was making and hemming pants, but I was not learning to cut and stitch.

After that I decided that I would go to Bottler's Limited, the 'juicy' factory on Long Circular Road in St. James. I never liked being on the streets, even though I did have a likeness for some of the trades I went to learn. I used to assort bottles. When the bottles arrived, I had to get cases and assort the bottles according to whether they were Juicy or Pepsi and so on. I used to go down on a morning and do my little hustle. There was a Chinese man, Mr. Koo, who used to drive a delivery truck and sometimes he would ask me to go with them to deliver. I used to like that, because at the end of the day (Friday), I would have something in my pocket. It went on like that for a little while. At that time I started to sing and deliver up this thing for kaiso, because things had started to get a little clearer. When I started to listen to 'Sparrow' singing, he convinced me to be a Calypsonian. 'Sparrow' is the man who really inspired me. When I heard him singing, I told myself I wanted to be a Calypsonian. I started to work on myself and on my singing, and I realized I had the ability to compose; so I took a shot at it.

'Conqueror' and I grew up together in Belle-View, and both of us were two of a kind. We were like the saying, "Birds of a feather flock together". When we realized both of us were into the same thing, we started to lime together and sing for each other. I wrote the Calypso 'Woman and Money', and I also sang that song in December in a concert at Seamen and Waterfront. January is Calypso tent, and December is when the postmen have their concert and function. There was a guy by the name of 'Michael Prince' who was a postman, and he also had a dance troop. He was a very versatile dancer. He used to promote concerts around December time, and the postmen and them used to come together. They had asked me to perform, and I sang the song. It went down so well, that the audience called for an encore, and that said it all for me.

Would you believe, when it was time to audition for the tent, 'Conqueror' sang the song and he got picked? Well that was the end of that. I had some kind of experiences in the art, that you really had to have belly. We stayed brothers, and we stayed loving. He did justice to the song, and I was very glad about it. I didn't mind, because it showed me I had the ability. After that, 'Kitchener' and 'Sparrow' had a falling out when he came to sing with Syl Taylor in 1963. I do not know what sort of falling out these people had, but the man came from England to sing in the tent, and he didn't sing one night in the tent. He went back to England and sent down the road march, 'The Road Made to Walk', and still beat them with it. In 1964 he came down to sing in the Revue, which is now known as the Strand Cinema. He sang at the Revue in 1964 and in 1965, and he won the road march both times. 'Superior' then decided to open a tent and let him start the tent. Some of the crew went down Wrightson Road, and some went with 'Kitchener'. They formed a tent in 1966 by the name of 'The Calypso Caravan'. It was the first Calypso tent that 'Kitchener' starred in and headlined.

In 1965 in December month, I was going to audition for the 'Calypso Caravan', but I didn't have any name (remember the guy took my name). That was how I got the name 'Valentino'; it was because the guy took my name. Although I could have sung kaiso, I also knew that I had the ability to write, and I was confident. I tried to compose a name for the audition, but I couldn't come up with one. When it was my turn to audition for 'Kitchener', I sang two verses in the first song. He asked me if I had any more and so I sang two more verses. He said, "Hold it, what is your name?" It was the biggest joke of my career. I am talking about an audition where everybody wanted to get into 'Kitchener's tent. It was a packed house we were dealing with, including the musicians who were playing for the tent. Some of the guys came down from England like Rodrick Boarde and so on. When I told them I didn't have a name, it was a joke and everybody started to laugh. They couldn't believe I went to sing and didn't have a name. Next thing you know, everybody wanted to give me a name, and they were shouting all kinds of names. After about fifteen minutes, 'Kitchener' said they would call me 'Valentino'...the 'Mighty Lord Kitchener' gave me the name 'Valentino'.

In those times, Calypsonians socialized with rum. When a man brings a bottle of whiskey, it was something that was very rare. They poured a drink of rum on my head and initiated me as a Calypsonian. I didn't know where this bottle of whiskey came from, but a man initiated me with a drink of whiskey. I cannot forget that, because it is one of my most memorable times.


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