Young Tiger

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... read moreYoung Tiger was a central figure in the evolution of the calypso sound that dominated London in the years following World War II. Though not a calypsonian by strict definition, he was among the first generation of musicians to migrate from the Caribbean to Great Britain, and his recordings for the...

Key songs

Young Tiger
Calypso Be
2:50
Young Tiger
Famous
3:15
Young Tiger
Give It Up
3:33
Young Tiger
Trinidad
2:37
Young Tiger
African Dream
3:10

Biography

Active: 1940s-1960s
Country Of origin: England

Young Tiger was a central figure in the evolution of the calypso sound that dominated London in the years following World War II. Though not a calypsonian by strict definition, he was among the first generation of musicians to migrate from the Caribbean to Great Britain, and his recordings for the influential Melodisc label profoundly affected the myriad artists who arrived in his wake. Born Edric Browne in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on May 4, 1920, he grew up steeped in the African spiritual traditions of Shango and Shouting. The library of family friend Richard E. Braithwaite introduced him to black history and activism, and he later adopted the name George E. Browne in tribute to his mentor. At 20 Browne signed on with a Norwegian oil tanker, and after a brief stay in Australia he settled in Scotland in 1941.

At a Glasgow dancehall he befriended a group of fellow Trinidadian expats, who encouraged him to relocate to London. Upon his arrival, Browne landed with a minstrel show headlining Westminster's Central Hall, followed by a stint in the chorus of a West End revival of Show Boat. From there he formed his own vocal group, wrapping his resonant baritone around covers of American pop hits. Although Browne left Trinidad before the steel bands that effectively created calypso emerged in earnest, he eagerly appropriated elements of their music into his own sound, in 1943 penning the seasonal cult classic "Christmas Calypso." He also embraced calypso's penchant for social commentary, and while playing with a rhumba band at the upscale Orchid Room he improvised a few verses in honor of guest Prince Philip. The club owners were horrified, but fellow royals turned out in droves the following night. Sadly, Browne had scrapped the song for fear of greater managerial retribution.

Browne remained the toast of London nightlife in the years to follow, co-founding the vocal trio Three Just Men with Bermuda native Ken Gordon and rubbing shoulders with jazz titans including Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. After touring Paris as a solo act, Browne returned to London in 1951, collaborating with bandleader Humphrey Lyttleton. In 1952, he signed to Melodisc, the first British company to record Caribbean music, and after debuting with a cover of calypso singer Tiger's "Single Man," he was christened Young Tiger by label execs. With 1953's "Calypso Be" -- a wry satire of bebop sensibilities -- he recorded one of the classic records of the genre, but enjoyed his greatest recognition later that same year via "I Was There," which documented his perspective on the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Browne nevertheless abandoned calypso soon after for jazz, collaborating with longtime friend and mentor Lauderic Caton at the underground Soho venue Club du Faubourg and regularly headlining Oxford and Cambridge university balls.

In 1957, he formed a choir, the Humming Birds, and that same year appeared in the rock & roll feature Rock You Sinners. Browne spent much of the 1960s pursuing a stage career, acting with the National Theatre and Stratford's Theatre Royal. In 1966, he even starred as Jesus Christ in a passion play produced at Senegal's First World Festival of Negro Arts. He quit music for good in 1970, opening a London restaurant and health club. When rent increases forced him out of business, Browne moved to the U.S., settling in Florida and then California, where he studied computer science. He eventually returned to London, and on October 26, 2006, played a triumphant live set in honor of the Honest Jon's label's release of the calypso retrospective London Is the Place for Me, Vol. 2. Browne died March 23, 2007, at age 82. ~ Jason Ankeny~ Rovi