L to R King Ajamu, Praying Mantis, Peter Humphrey and Tangler
Like any other Village in any Parish throughout Grenada, Birchgrove provided the nurturing grounds for athletes, musicians and other outstanding citizens who have gone on to National, Regional and International fame and acclaim.
The Humphrey family certainly made its contribution in that regard, first through education (five of six siblings went on to be teachers) and then through music through the exploits of Peter Humphrey, Patrick Humphrey – the Unlucky (the 1971 and 1973 Calypso Monarch) and the Rhythm Ryders.
Peter got his break through the very famous penny concerts hosted by the 4H Club of Birchgrove. One fateful day his friends decided to out-spend him matching his pennies until he ran out of coins and was forced to perform. His destiny as a singer was cemented on that Primary School day in Birchgrove.
Peter’s move to the Presentation Brothers College opened him up to even more musical possibilities, as the successes of Cecil Belfon (the Flying Turkey) influenced a whole new generation of aspiring Musicians and Calypsonians. Among some of those who formed part of that early movement were the likes of the late Dr. David Lambert, Ewart Layne, the late Don Charles and his brothers Ricky and Leon and Jude Henry (Natty Nuclear Dread). Some of these names would later feature prominently in the growth of Grenada’s budding music industry with the formation of bands such as Moss International, Jah Jah Children and Magnificent Six.
Peter himself went on to join the Rhythm Ryders, after the band had completed a tour of England that ended in some discord.
While teaching at the Birchgrove RC School Peter competed in the Catholic Teachers Calypso competition placing first, this would have guaranteed him a spot in a Calypso Tent in Trinidad. However his paperwork for travel to the United Sates come through just prior to that and so he left the island in early 1979.
Once in Washington DC the musical sojourn continued with Peter joining the Image Band. At the same time he maintained his connection to the Grenada Calypso scene by competing locally and in the Independence Calypso competition in New York. The hit tunes during that era included; The Big A, Shake Ah Leg and the Book.
In 1988 Peter Humphrey formed his own band – the Oasis Band which is still very active and functional and in which he doubles as bass player and lead singer. The Oasis Band is a fixture in the Baltimore, Washington DC area; in fact the band has performed at the Inauguration Ceremony for Presidents George W, Bush and Barack Obama.
The year 1994 was to be Peter’s defining moment with the recording of the timeless Miss Daisy.
The original hook ‘doh come so fast’ was suggested by a friend who insisted that a song could be built around that line. At about the same time the movie Miss Daisy was released in theatres and Peter, with his friend constantly reminding him about the line, combined the two ideas to create the classic story told in song. Producer Martin Calliste added his technical expertise and so the song was completed.
Peter, however, felt that his other song recorded that year Jump Spread Out was the one that audiences would gravitate toward. The popularity of dancehall music at the time convinced Peter that Miss Daisy would get overshadowed by Jump Spread Out.
On the drive down from Birchgrove to Radio Grenada to release Jump Spread Out, Peter’s two brothers accidently heard Miss Daisy which was on the same cassette as Jump Spread Out. The brothers got extremely excited and insisted on playing Miss Daisy over and over. They concluded that this song was going to be the hit. Peter was still not convinced, but upon arrival at the radio station consented to letting Andre Donald play Miss Daisy. The response was immediate and over whelming.
Miss Daisy, to date, remains Peter Humphrey’s biggest hit, affording him the opportunity to tour Europe, Canada and the USA.
The journey came full circle when Peter headlined the Masters of Calypso show at Spice Basket on Sunday May 08th. Performing in Grenada for the first time in 22 years the audience was treated to a delightful display of showmanship. After the show Peter himself commented, ‘People are going to once again see the value in Grenadian Artistes. It was not just a show it was a validation of neglected talent.’
More of that talent will form part of the 2016 Carnival season as Made In Grenada has forged a professional working relationship with Peter Humphrey that will see him releasing two new songs in June 2016.
The Rhythm Ryder has now become a Riddim rider, working with the likes of dynamic young producer Hector ‘Mr. Legz’ Thomas to bridge the musical gap between generations. Such a collaborative effort should lead to an even better quality sound and brand of Grenada music.