Growling Tiger, Neville Marcano, was an important and always entertaining Calypso singer. Alan Lomax recorded him in Trinidad in 1962 and he appeared at the Newport Folk Festival in 1966. In 1979, he made a great record called, Knockdown Calypsos, for Rounder, which is where I first heard him.
Tiger was a championship boxer and, as a teenager, became one of the youngest stars of the golden age of calypso in the 1930s. He favored the old-style minor key calypsos and was often called, ‘The King of Me Minor.’ Calypso was/is a competitive and often political music that commented of the issues of the day for the people of the Caribbean. Tiger was perhaps the most political of all and addressed issues like social and labor unrest and government corruption, though he sang about many other topics. One of his most famous songs is ‘Money is King.’
Calypsos were often extemporaneous expressions and depended not only on the musical skills, but the character of the performer. Tiger was an oddball in the calypso world in that he didn’t drink, never swore, and was monogamous. His songs were constructive and ironic, and his voice always conveyed his innate sweetness and wisdom.
Motor Car Horn
He accidentally became a singer when he and friends needed money for food and he sang in a competition. He had been the flyweight champion of Trinidad in 1929 and his training added to his sense of timing. That, coupled with a clear voice, a far-seeing poet’s vision, and his ability to extemporize made him one of the most beloved and celebrated calypsonians. Calypsonian, that sounds like a royal title to me.