The local broadcasting and entertainment fraternities have been thrown into immediate mourning with news of the death of Vic Buddy Boy Brewster.
Brewster, 81, passed away at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) last night after a lengthy illness.
Known as the island’s first radio deejay, he rose to fame in the 1960s and 1970s with his Break With Brewster show at the state-owned Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
Before his retirement from the CBC in 2003, Brewster was deputy programme manager for TV, but was better known as a champion for the promotion of Bajan music and musicians, as well as a television director and producer.
Vic Fernandes, the former CBC deputy general manager responsible for broadcasting, described Brewster as a well-rounded individual and professional media personality.
“He spent some time at Syracuse University getting specialized training, and when he came back, he directed the news, he directed a number television programmes [such as] Studio Party and others, which were in the embryonic stages of many of the performers that you see in today’s world of entertainment,” Fernandes recalled, while stressing that Brewster’s total contribution to the broadcasting and entertainment industries went well beyond his initial role as deejay to television producer, director, trainer and storyteller.
“He loved to tell jokes . . . . He was amiable, a very caring and kind individual . . . and I enjoyed my time with him. We played cricket together, representing CBC team. He was a good all-round cricketer as well . . . . He was always into fitness as well,” said Fernandes, who first heard of Brewster when he was a teenager at school.
“He was the first person in Barbados to . . . mix the music on air ‘live’ and operate the equipment. Back then, he had a whole number of handles that he used, such as ‘friendly cousins’ and then he would have statements like, ‘if you can’t take the heat, stay out the kitchen’ . . . cute statements like that,” Fernandes recalled, adding that “He was very much prominent as an on air personality. You needed to get your music on Vic Brewster’s show if you wanted it to go somewhere. He was the official emcee for The Merrymen when they were the biggest group in the Caribbean, touring all over the world. He was also the man who emceed all the major shows . . . the Caribbean Pepperpot, he was the man who ran the floor shows there as well.”
Win Callender, another veteran broadcaster who also worked with Brewster at CBC, also joined with Fernandes in expressing condolences to Brewster’s family,
Callender, a former radio programme manager and the current chairman of the Barbados Broadcasting Authority (BBA), said the broadcasting community has lost a giant.
“I remember listening to Vic Brewster, the Buddy Boy Brewster, when I was a student at The Foundation School. A bunch of us used to have a little transistor radio where we could listen to Break With Brewster, which was the show of the time. And later on in life I got to work at CBC with him and he has always been the professional,” he recalled.
Callender also described Brewster as a trendsetter and one who sought to nurture young broadcasting talent.
“A lot of the presenters for weather, he was the one working with them . . . . I am sure the broadcast industry will be worse off at his loss,” Callender added.
Retired television director Cecilia Elliott-Alleyne said Brewster was her trainer.
“When I was training to be a director, I closely collaborated with both Errol Rawlins and Vic Brewster, but Vic Brewster was the one who took me under his wings in the studio and showed me all the technical aspects of directing. So I can tell you that our association has been long and it’s been a teaching one,” Elliott-Alleyne said.
However, she said what impressed her the most about Brewster was his love of family.
“He was very much into his family. I remembered very well when flying fish were cheap, Vic would make sure he bought 200 or 300 flying fish . . . [and] he said, ‘these are for my home’, and that really impressed me. Not only for that, when it was time for his son to be out from school, whatever Vic was doing, Vic would say, ‘let it wait. I have to go and pick up Ryan from school,’” she recalled.
In a statement today, the recently resuscitated Barbados Association of Journalists (BAJ) reacted with sadness to Brewster’s death, describing him as “a pioneer in radio”, “a household name” and a “signature voice” that left an indelible mark on the people of Barbados.
“One of his most memorable programmes was the hosting of the then popular Under the Sandbox Tree.
“Vic was one whose work was defined by a craftiness with words, a wit and sense of humour and yet a professionalism that was pinned on the love for media and an appreciation for the importance of linguistic delivery along with positive and informative radio content.
“In his later years he spent much time mentoring the younger generation of journalists, reporters and announcers. He was passionate about ensuring that the high standards to which he upheld himself were passed on to generations with the hope of securing the longevity of the profession.
“His work and influence touched many within the journalism fraternity and beyond; he will surely be missed,” the statement, issued by the BAJ’s interim Public Relations Officer Ann-Marie Burke, said.
Today, Brewster’s widow Edwardine was too distraught to speak, but a sombre-sounding Ryan told Barbados TODAY his father was his hero.
“Not necessarily being the most emotionally expressive person, he would go above and beyond to make sure he was there for me. He did everything to help me become who I am and to provide for us, his family. [He was] the definition of a father in my book,” Ryan said, fighting back his emotions. (EJ)