Podcast host appeals for memories of Trinidad musician’s Leith residency at the Eldorado Ballroom
For generations, the Eldorado Ballroom in Leith was the place to dance the night away to some of the best bands of the day come the weekend.
One of those was Trinidad-born clarinetist Carl Barriteau, who won a brand new fan recently when a long forgotten photograph donated to the Wee Museum of Memory in Ocean Terminal sparked the interest of the Living Memory Association’s Miles Tubb.
Miles presents the weekly podcast Forgotten Songs from the Broom Cupboard, which uncovers the stories behind rare 78rpm records from lesser known artists and he is keen to discover if anyone in the Capital remembers Barriteau.
He explains, "We'd had this photo of a musician in our archives for some 20 years. The woman who donated it said it had belonged to her father, but she didn't know who the musician was, only that he was well known. Doing the podcast I thought, ‘I should really find out who he is,’ so I put the photo on my Instagram page and a guy from Tennessee used the photo identity app Tin Eye to identify him, he discovered it was Carl Barriteau who was well known in the 40s."
Born in 1914 Barriteau received his early musical tuition at the Belmont Orphanage, Trinidad. He moved to the UK in May 1937 and just 12 days later secured a place in Ken 'Snakehips' Johnson's band playing alto sax and clarinet. Working with Johnson until March 1941 when both were caught in an air-raid – Johnson was killed, Barriteau suffered a broken wrist. The musician then formed the West Indian Dance Orchestra. However it's the next chapter in Barriteau career that has captured Tubb's imagination, from May 1949 he had a two year residency at the Eldorado Ballroom.
"Over the years, many people have brought 78s to the Wee Museum of Memory. When I started doing the podcast, I looked through them, finding those that were a bit more unusual."
Researching those long forgotten performers Miles then tells their story during his podcast.
"The stories are a huge part of the draw,” he says. “One record I found from the Thirties was by Master Joe Peterson, who was billed as 'the phenomenal boy singer' except he wasn't a boy, he was a woman. At the time boy sopranos were in vogue. The record label had decided that rather than have a series of boys whose voices would break they’d have this poor woman, Mary O'Rourke, who even in her 40s was still dressing as a boy."
Barriteau's story is equally compelling. As a soloist he won the Melody Maker clarinet poll seven years running and performed with the likes of The Platters. He died in 1998.
Despite his popularity, Barriteau was by no means a wealthy during his time in Leith.
"A line in his obituary notes it wasn't a financially rewarding time and that he was ‘very loathe to leave his flat’ because he had, basically, fiddled the gas meter and had an eternal supply of free gas. Whoever wrote that obituary must have spoken to someone who knew him when he was here. There must be someone out there who remembers him and I would love them to get in touch."
Visit Miles Tubb's Forgotten Songs from the Broom Cupboard podcast at https://forgottensongs.libsyn.com/