In the nineteen fifties and early sixties, many of Trinidad’s popular calypso singers were vocally supported by the March of Dimes quartet, a group named as homage to The March of Dimes organization, founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938, as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, to combat polio. The name “March of Dimes” was coined by Eddie Cantor. After funding Jonas Salk‘s polio vaccine, the organization expanded its focus to the prevention of birth defects and infant mortality.
The March of Dimes Quartet included Peter Pitts, Marjorie Johnson, Laddie Prescott and Nap Hepburn who debuted as a solo calypsonian in 1955 and was one of the more important and influential calypso voices of that era.
Any fan of vintage calypso music would have been familiar with the “calypso/doo-wop” sound of the March of Dimes as backup , especially when the Mighty Sparrow , for instance would give a shoutout in his songs to “Laddie” or “Marjorie”.
Randolph Nathaniel “Nap” Hepburn , (d.o.b December 30th, 1925) had a number of calypso hits especially in the late fifties into the sixties, and was certainly one of my favorite calypsonians back then.
One of his early hits from 1959 was his powerful demand to “Uncle Sam” to return the land occupied by the US naval base at Chaguaramas to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
In 1961, Nap had a few hits , including his political commentary of “The Mad Scientist”
Also from 1961, IMHO one of the best local Christmas songs, “Tell Santa”
In this calypso from 1980, Nap expresses his appreciation for the changes in steelband culture and on the progress made by the steelbands away from the bad old days of steelband street clashes at carnival.
The next two selections are two of his best and most popular calypsos. I would also say that they are my favorites by this great artist.
Here , he gives some advice on selection a mate. She must be attractive because according to him “two man rat can’t live in one hole”😊.
However, when the relationship doesn’t work out , one cannot help having a bit of “tabanca”😒.
The March of Dimes Quartet was a unique and impactful group of calypso supporting artists, and Nep Hepburn was one of the best proponents ot the calypso art-form of his era.
Randolph Nathaniel “Nap” Hepburn (December 10th 1925 – September 6th, 2005)
May He Rest in Peace.