Monday, April 4, 2011
Album of the Week - West Indian Tobacco Gay Desperadoes
The West Indian Tobacco Gay Desperadoes - Pan in Honey (Hildrina 1976)
I feel in love with this cover the moment I saw it and even let out a little "wow" which is generally a sign that I've found something very pleasing. For a start that's one of hell of a band name you got there and then the cover is a bee that's been tricked out with steel drums. Congrats on winning the 1976 steel drum championship as well, good show.
Now, obviously its the name that sells this band to me and I think you'd have to agree that's its really quite wonderful. Essentially this is actually the Gay Desperadoes being sponsored by The West Indian Tobacco company. Before then they had a deal with a soft drinks company and were the Coca Cola Gay Desperadoes.
It turns out that the band are one of the oldest and most successful steel bands in the world. They can trace their roots back to the 1940's and have won a great many championship and titles adding nine more to the 1976 success. Despers, as the band's name is often shortened to, were once lead by Rudolph Charles who it seems was a legend of the steel band world.
Sadly the band are now know only as Desperadoes, the gay part having long since be abandoned at the behest of Mr Charles. It seems to have been a source of embarrassment and has all but been forgotten about. In trying to find out more information about this record the word gay makes only a rare appearance and even then it only in the context of changing a name with "negative connotations". Alas the name of the band fell foul to the homophobic nature of West Indian culture.
Indeed its only weird collectors like me that are keeping the Gay Deseradoes memory alive or at lest in a postive way.
On a more positive note these days the Despers take an active role in their home town of Laventille. The location has a very high crime rate and strong gang culture. In an attempt to combat these problems the Despers have an education programme and try to help children escape that lifestyle.
I've played the record but to be honest I couldn't tell you a good steel band from a bad one and its kind of lost of me.