King RedRPB was on stage with Prince Harry during his visit to Barbados. (Guest Picture)
By Cheryl Harewood | Sun, August 26, 2012 - 12:02 AM
HE IS CONSIDERED the darling of St Philip, their own king, their own Bag – their hero.
To many he embodies the hometown boy, one who despite his numerous accomplishments both in Barbados and farther afield has remained humble.
Quite a number of his fans refer to him as Bag, others as RPB or Red Plastic Bag – his official stage name. Yet to others who prefer formality, he is simply Stedson Wiltshire.
However you “bag it”, Red Plastic Bag has been a household name in Barbados since 1982 when this then shy 21-year-old St Philip-born “lad” became the youngest calypsonian to be crowned “king of the calypso stage”, copping the Pic-O-The Crop title with his two great songs Mr Harding and Sugar Made Us Free.
Since that first win he has gone on to win the national calypso title on nine other occasions, the latest during this year’s Pic-O-The Crop Finals at the Gymnasium of the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex on August 3.
This reigning calypso king’s love for music goes back to his teen years. He entered his first calypso competition in 1979 at the age of 17. That was the St Philip Calypso Competition, which he won for three consecutive years – 1979, 1980 and 1981. It was not much of a surprise to his St Philip fans when he copped his first national calypso title, sweeping aside seasoned calypsonians such as Mighty Grynner, Mighty Gabby, Romeo, Dragon and Viper – to name a few.
However, Wiltshire never felt he had achieved. He simply believed there was much to conquer and it was only the beginning of his life as an entertainer.
He would later say about his first win: “I was competing with fellows I had been listening to for many years. It was humbling to think about where I had come from.”
But enough about the life of Wiltshire as a calypsonian. An ardent cricketer, who represented St Catherine’s as an opening batsman in the Barbados Cricket Association’s Division 1 competition for several years (he scored a century against YMPC at Beckles Road), his life has not only centred on singing and entertaining audiences around the world. This former Caricargo employee who quit his nine-hour-a-day job in 1995 to devote his life to singing is as much a family man – husband, father, brother, uncle and son. His friends also know him as a “comedian” – one who loves to tell a joke, if only to evoke laughter from those needing a “pick me up”.
In fact, according to friends Michael Reid and Mighty Gabby, he would make a great comedian.
Hailing from the rural area of Bayfield, St Philip, Wiltshire was the last child born into a family of four sets of twins – Luther and Cedric (the latter of whom is now deceased); Melva and Joan (the sole identical twin); Muriel and Eulan (the latter of whom died at eight months), and his other two sisters Velma and Phyllis.
Sister Muriel describes him this way: “Bag is very nice, cool and calm. He never got into trouble as a boy growing up. He is just a cool guy.”
His father-in-law Charles Harding describes him as “a complete family man, who believes he can cook.
“He loves to fish and spends many a quiet time on the beach strumming his guitar, composing some musical gems – sometimes putting the finish on presentations for Pic-O-the-Crop finals”.
It was out of his crowded home environment, where his mother Ruby Wiltshire tried her best to raise her children, that Wiltshire learned to share almost everything. He also learnt how to do without.
“The most important thing we had in the home was love. There was not much more. My mother Ruby Wiltshire worked hard to ensure we survived,” he told EASY magazine in a recent interview.
Being denied privileges many young people today take for granted became a regular part of Wiltshire’s life. He remembers clearly at age eight being told by his mother that he could not attend an excursion (“outing”), which was planned for River Bay by folks in St Philip, because she simply could not afford to take or send him.
“She took us to the beach instead,” Wiltshire explained.
“With the amount of love she showed me that day I could not ask for more. I forgot about the excursion, but this episode in my life helped me to build character and broadened my focus on what life is all about,” the former St Mark’s Primary School and Industry High School student stressed.
Today, Wiltshire admits to having a deep love and appreciation for River Bay, and whenever time allows, he travels to this scenic location in St Lucy to relax or enjoy a “good outing”.
Married for the past 20-odd years, he met his wife Roslyn, the love of his life, 26 years ago when she was asked to be one of the models for his album at that times. They share a special bond, including a deep love for their two teenaged children. Russon, 19, who has followed in his father’s footsteps by having a genuine love for music, is a former student of Foundation School, where he played alto sax with the school band. He is also a graduate of the Barbados Community College, where he studied music.
As a youngster Russon attended music school and also played tenor pan with the St Martin/Four Roads steel orchestra. He is currently studying management at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, in pursuit of a career in music management.
Sixteen-year-old daughter Rumaryn, a former top student of St Martin/Four Roads Primary School, is now a student at Harrison College.
A lover of reading and writing, one of Wiltshire’s goals is always to do everything he does with the best of his ability. It is no wonder, therefore, that he has “bagged” the calypso title on ten occasions during his 30-year career in entertainment, and has thrilled millions over the world with his self-penned lyrics and positive attitude.
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