Like a cat with nine lives, Stray Cats calypso tent keeps landing on its feet.
Manager Jerry Roberts and his members have been laughed at, ridiculed, criticised, cursed, and accused of wasting the Pic-O-De-Crop, Party Monarch and more recently the Sweet Soca judges’ time but every year, they claw their way back into the Crop-Over Festival.
At the recent launch of the St. Philip based tent, Roberts said that he enjoys the festival and getting the youth involved.
“A lot of the younger calypsonians don’t have money to arrange songs so what I do sometimes is help them arrange songs and then I score the songs for them, free of cost. It is something that I have enjoyed doing. A lot of people don’t realise it, I have been playing music for 55 years. I have been playing from the time I was nine years old when I first went on stage.
“I don’t really think about the money part of it. One of the reasons I’m a one man band is because I don’t owe anybody any money. If someone comes to me and tells me how much he wants, I make sure I can pay them when the day’s done. That’s why stray cats has been around for 20 years, because when Crop-Over is done I can lay down my head and nobody is knocking on my door saying I owe them,” he said.
Singing with the moniker, Big Bore Cat, the manager said he guides the youth showing them ropes.
Some stick with him and others move on. He singled out Annie Anna as one of his top singers.
“She has been with me for 12 years, a lot of tents wanted her but she stuck with me. She was with me when I was a one man band and … she wouldn’t leave and now I have an eight-piece band she’s still there.
“People see the hard work I’m doing and some people appreciate it. People give me lashes but that’s why Solo sponsored me, Simon Jackson is a musician and he has seen what I have done with the young musicians. Anthony Walrond came on board after he saw Stray Cats struggling and that I had to write songs, drop people home and he helped me quite a bit so that’s one of the reasons Stray Cats has been around,” he said.
No matter how tough it gets, quitting is not an option.
“I can’t quit. I gine play till I die and that’s why one of my songs — I paid the price no children no wife — is very creative, because I have been playing music constantly I have no relationships. My relationships break up, women take my guitar and break it up hitting it in the wall. A woman told me one day in Greece, its either me or the guitar. I took the guitar and went on the streets with $10 in my pocket.
“I play all over the world. In Vegas for three months, in Beverley Hills … I can’t stop. People shot at me in Canada … they were bikers and they wanted to hear hard rock, I sang Day-O and hear ‘plang’! They pelt a bottle at me. I ducked and I said you gine got to kill me cause I got rent to pay I ain’t moving. I would not move and to get rid of me they had to fire me. They shoot at me in another place in Quebec,” he recalled.
He added with a chuckle: “If I’ve been through all of this in Canada the lashes I get in Barbados are a joke.”
The tent opens next Friday night at the Town Hall at the Crane Resort and Residences.
Roberts said that Lil’ Rick has indicated he would be making an appearance. (DS)