Veteran entertainer Grynner stamped his authority on this year’s Crop Over season when he commanded DJs to “turn on de speaker, put de volume to all”, making it clear that “de old dog on de road again.”
He had to build himself up to take that journey again. But now that he is on that path, he says there’s no stopping him.
“I was a little bit down about three years ago, because the wife was sick. But after she passed on I built back up the spirit, because death and the singing were playing a tug of war, so it wasn’t helping. But right now, I’m back at my fittest and best,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“I was always there, but I only put back on the power from this year. So, you’ll be looking for me next year with more power.”
Born McDonald Blenman in 1946 as the eighth of 13 children, Grynner entered the calypso arena in 1968. His debut was the realization of a childhood dream that had sometimes got him into trouble.
“I was getting licks at school for singing calypso – the old-time calypso you get from the Mighty Lion and Sparrow and those guys at the early stages,” he recalled.
“We could go by a shop and punch the jukebox and write the song out…in your school book, but you couldn’t let your mum know you were writing songs in your book. So, it was good inspiration for us. If you like something you do it, you know?”
Almost 50 years later, he still enjoys entertaining.
“I did my first calypso competition in 1968, came third to Gabby and Romeo, and I never looked back. I’ve been going from there till now.
“It [was] a great feeling to be in the field with Sir Don and The Mighty Charmer at the time, because they were older guys than I,” he said.
In 1976, Grynner became the second person to win the Pic-O-de-Crop crown. Performing Crop Over Bachannal, he dethroned Destroyer who won the inaugural competition. He went on to win the Road March title seven times: 1983 to 1985; 1988 to 1990; and 1998.
As a young performer, he was inspired by the art of Trinidadian calypsonian Lord Blakie.
“I patterned myself off of him, up to today . . . so that’s why I think my songs come over so humorous, because he was a humorous fella.”
Grynner was successful in injecting humour in his social and political commentary, delivering 1980s hits such as Stinging Bees and Bajan Yankees, as well as the witty Mr T in 1983, which was penned by fellow calypsonian Gabby.
The latter song later became mired in controversy after Grynner adapted the lyrics in favour of the then ruling Barbados Labour Party, upon the party’s request. Some of his fans were critical of the move, while others saw it as a betrayal of Gabby. The following year, responded to his critics through the release of Gabby Controversy.
Despite the controversy, the 70-year-old credits Gabby and Eddy Grant for his success in the art form, and says he has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
“I’m happy with the years I spent. I had some good times with Gabby and Eddy Grant and I expect to continue doing what I doing . . . as long as I have the strength
“It’s something that I like. I inspire other people when I go places. And the older people just like to see me, so I’m doing it for the older people plus the young ones,” he said.
Grynner believes, however, that calypso is being diluted, and he prefers social commentary to the more popular party songs.
“Only the old singers really write the stories. The young people just do a little jump up thing; they don’t have the stories. Calypso is a storytelling kind of thing and it is best to do storytelling.”
As Barbados celebrates its 50th Anniversary of Independence this year, Grynner is preparing to mark the occasion with the release of a new song, paying tribute to the Father of Independence Errol Barrow.
He recalls being at the Garrison Savannah witnessing his country transition from a British colony to an independent nation.
“I was there when we got Independence. I had just come out of the theatre and I was there enjoying myself until something happened and disturbed the entertainment.
It was a real fussy Bajan night. That time, they had bread carts and so on, and people would be selling trays. It was a fantastic night.
“And now I am here, now that we reach 50,” he said.