HE never moved around without his cuatro in hand. As a teacher, the master-blaster in lyrics would have taken his much cherished God-given possession to school, both to teach and to entertain.
He would have also been very busy with his instrument at social events, whether within or outside of his community.
His total obsession with calypso was certainly based on his unique passion for the art-form. And he was instinctively aware of the role of calypso in society, even then in the 1960s.
He never stopped talking and asking questions about the former greats, the likes of Executor, Atilla, King Radio, Beginner, and even the earlier pioneers of kaiso – all of whom he has written about.
That is Hollis “Chalkie” Liverpool, who, was unlike his fellow school teachers, and even the rest of society, who saw the steelband and the calypso as taboo. He defied the odds and was even hounded out of his career by the very few chosen teacher-elites of the profession who were by then promoted to senior positions in the Ministry of Education.
Undoubtedly, then prime minister Dr Eric Williams thought otherwise than to befriend calypsonians. He knew of the devastating effects of the lyrics of the “mouthpieces of the masses” on his political establishment. He would have therefore then ordered his minister of education to leave Chalkie alone when he piconged, “Let the jackass bray”.
Many teachers attempted to follow in the footsteps of Liverpool, but they failed miserably.
The only two survivors I can barely recall are Llewellyn “Short Pants” McIntosh and “The Alberto” who is permanently residing somewhere in England.
Chalkdust had grabbed his sobriquet name from the very title of that handy book written by popular local sociologist/educator De Wilton Rogers on the teacher and pupil in the classroom. The teacher/ calypsonian was to later prove that he was anything but the least in the classroom – the dust from the chalk falling on the floor.
Chalkdust has won the calypso monarch title more than anyone else in his five decades of singing, except perhaps with the iconic Sparrow. And have we forgotten that Chalkie dominated the Buy Local competitions in the 1960s and 1970s, winning almost all of them?
As he elevated himself in song and music, so too did he in his human capacity as an intellectual. From his first degree in History at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine, to his Masters and PhD in Carnival and Calypso History, and Ethnomusicology at the University of Michigan in the United States.
But what is “ethnomusicology”? It is the science that deals with the vital role of song and music in society. It tells of how people can be influenced by, or react to a, particular song, especially when it is about those of influence among us, especially politicians.
Liverpool remained faithful and steadfast to his divine call to sing and serve. Like a visionary, he had seen fame and fortune coming. Perseverance has brought him the queen he had been dreaming of.
So what’s next for Dr Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool after the highest award of Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (ORTT)?
Another visit to another distinguished female head of state like her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain, or maybe to the Secretary General of the United Nations, for the level of honour that can see calypso ascend into a new era of international recognition never yet before recognised?
Ride on, Your Majesty, we are all behind you.