“Hot like fire, sweet like sugar, when you hear dem calling, dem calling for Grynner! Every Kadooment Day, he does mash up de highway – At the end of the day the man is King of de Road!” – MADD, “Tribute to Grynner”, 1991
We heartily welcome the decision that the Spring Garden Highway, the culmination point of Kadooment Day activities since 1983, is to be renamed in honour of MacDonald Blenman – the Mighty Grynner – in recognition of one of Barbados’ most talented, yet highly unassuming, entertainers and a stalwart in the calypso arena.
At age 73, our unofficial “King of the Road” for his seven Tune-O-De-Crop (Road March) triumphs between 1983 and 1985, between 1988 and 1990, and in 1998, Grynner has been performing since the early 1970s. He won the Calypso King title in 1976 with Crop Over Bacchanal, and became well known for his uptempo songs, some of which had a serious element to them. In 1983, his first major hit, Mr T, written by the Mighty Gabby (Anthony Carter), was a critical look at Prime Minister Tom Adams. Grynner was a favourite to win the crown that year, as his semifinal performances rocked the National Stadium, but the finals were abandoned on two occasions after the first half, owing to heavy rain and no Calypso Monarch title was awarded.
He followed up with Stinging Bees, another critique of the Labour Party Government in 1984, and Gabby Controversy, which touched on a short-lived remake of Mr T, allegedly done without Gabby’s permission, praising Prime Minister Adams for his role in the US-led Grenada invasion in October 1983. And how many younger people know that Grynner originally performed Culture in the Battleground tent in 1985 before Gabby reclaimed it and eventually won the Pic-O-De-Crop contest with it? In 1986, he performed Bajan Yankees, and in 1987, Grynner recalled the 24-3 defeat of the BLP in the 1986 General Elections with All O’ Dem Gone.
Grynner also had a more light-hearted side, as seen with Susie From De Country (1980); Rock with Me (1982); Wait for Me (1988), Ah Coming (1991) and who can forget Leggo I Hand (1989) with that memorable chorus line: “Jah Rastafari paro jambo/ creator of rhythm and tempo /master of this sweet calypso/ leading I band”? Guyana-born entertainer and music producer Eddy Grant and Gabby played a major role in Grynner’s success throughout the 1980s and 1990s, a fact he acknowledged and immortalised in his other 1987 contribution, The Three Gs.
Grynner remains the first, and so far only, calypsonian to score two hat-trick victories in the Tune-O-De-Crop competition. The first came between 1983 and 1985 with Mr. T, Stinging Bees and We Want More, Grynner, while the second (1998-1990) included Wait for Me, Leggo I Hand and Get Out De Way. In the 1990s his efforts were not as successful as competitors like Ras Iley grew stronger and new challengers also arose, for example, Edwin, Alison Hinds and Lil Rick in the latter part of the decade, but De Old Dawg still had it in him as his Grind Them took the title in 1998. A special remix of Grind Them even featured cameo appearances from Alison Hinds and Lil Rick. Grynner stayed away from Pic-O-De-Crop, but he did make a few appearances at the Party Monarch Finals when that contest was held at the East Coast Road.
Two decades later, when many thought he had disappeared forever from the scene, he re-emerged with Turn on De Speaker in 2016. And in 2017 he teamed up with former rival, Ras Iley, with King of de Road, the two of them putting on an outstanding performance at the Soca Royale contest.
News of the possibility of the Spring Garden Highway being named after Grynner first surfaced about four years ago. Now it has become a reality, we expect that the same way a plaque noting Rihanna’s rise to fame was placed on Westbury New Road when it was renamed Rihanna Drive, Grynner will receive similar recognition.
Perhaps, better yet, there ought to be a statue on the roadway to immortalise his music dominated for so many years as it climaxed our Crop Over celebrations.
All hail the King of the Road!