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THE LOWDOWN: Giving Jackie his jacket

Richard Hoad

THE LOWDOWN: Giving Jackie his jacket

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Bajan hero Jackie Opel didn’t forgive easily.
“You got to go down on your knees and cry me a river”, he told one errant young lady.
And to another: “You got to pay-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay, you got to, you got to, you got to pay!”
Much has been said about Jackie of late, and now it’s my turn.
Crescendos was thrilled to be backing band for the Jackie Opel Show at the Bridgetown Plaza or Empire, I forget which.
Ladymeade Gardens in the 1960s was a quiet district. Our house was down at the end, the Davises and Dr Archie Edwards our nearest neighbours. Old Mr Perkins, Rev. Hanson, the Carters and the Catholic Priory all in shouting distance.
Night after night we rehearsed at full volume in our drawing room. Jackie was newly back from Jamaica.
“Papa’s got a brand new bag,” he told us, and explained why. (Sorry, it wouldn’t pass the editors.)
Not a soul objected. Least of all my father, then in his 70s, who had to endure not only the noise, but the crowd of hangers-on who invaded the house. Thanks, Dad!
Show time, place packed down, Jackie at his best!
Don’t fool yourself, Jackie was a genius. Voice with range, sweetness and power. A dancing idiot.
And when he did his famous flip where he ran to a wall, hit it feet first, flipped back over on his head and landed on his feet, the place went wild!
He was to start a song (Danny Boy, I think) without any accompaniment in a completely different key to the previous song. I bet he couldn’t do it. He hit it spot on.
Another time, he and I did a sort of two-sax sax-a-bassa (Jackie played a mean alto but not a lot). I can tell my grandchildren I shared the stage (more than once) with Jackie Opel and we got rapturous applause.
Actually I was the brass section for the night.
Ace trumpeter Pearson Tudor quit after one practice. He could smell a rat, as we shall see.
Show done, congratulations all around, fantastic!
Jackie praised me for a little tricky “puh-puh-pum” run in Eternal Love.
I mostly got it right. We gathered in the lobby.
“Sorry to tell you guys,” the promoter announced, “we didn’t make any money, so we can’t pay you anything.”
We were stunned. This man couldn’t be serious. We had practised for weeks, disrupted a neighbourhood, paid transport, given up everything to do this job.
We started to wax agitated: “Yuh got to pay-ay-ay-ay-ay, yuh got to . . . .”
“No way-ay-ay-ay-ay!” replied a big man in the Opel camp. Actually what he said was: “Fellows, we ain’t sign no contract with them. Don’t give them a cent!”
To be fair, Jackie didn’t seem happy that we had been shafted. In the end a compromise was reached: we would back Jackie at the Pepperpot in Nelson Street on the following night to recoup some of our losses.
You can fool some people all the time. Next night we arrived in Nelson Street to see a Trini band, Mitchell Brothers, taking their instruments into the Pepperpot. We had been double-shafted.
All things considered, however, we came out winners. I got to play with Jackie Opel and Pearson Tudor (if only for one night). Jackie taught our drummer Greg Banfield the “Motown Beat” which gave us an edge on other bands. Greg is still beating sweet timbales up in Canada.
Last but not least, I nearly saw a Nelson Street floorshow with real naked women which would have broadened my horizons far more than Al Gilkes’ “penny-a-peep” Playboy centrefolds at Harrison College. Long may Jackie live on!
Next Thursday, God willing, will mark 37 years I’ve been married to the same woman.
Our Prime Minister saw fit last week to visit a cocaine trafficker in prison for 19 years to assure him that Government was working on his case. I have been under worse stricture for 37 years but no visit as yet.
Next Thursday is also United Nations World Water Day. I’m going to go down on my knees and cry me a river.
Any chance of a li’l poutine, wifey?
Visiting Canadians Gil and Sue tell me their daughter got some at midnight on her wedding night. Guess that’s about as good a time as any.