The congratulatory train is chugging ahead for St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ very own Dr. Alston ‘Becket’ Cyrus, with more commendation coming his way.
This next round of congratulations come from Becket’s fellow countryman, cultural ambassador and legendary calypsonian Cyril “Scorcher” Thomas, who extended heartfelt congratulations to the ABC of calypso, while also crediting him for introducing him to legendary keyboardist and music arranger Dr. Franklyn ‘Frankie’ McIntosh’, who also received a doctor of letters from the University of the West Indies back in 2020.
‘Let me first extend my heartfelt congratulations to one of the most altruistic Vincentians,along with Ms. Mary Neverson Morris, that I have had the pleasure to work with. Becket was the one who directed me to Dr.Frankie McIntosh. He critiqued my works and recommended changes.’ The Sion Hill Calypsonian said.
Scorcher during his tribute acknowledged Becket as the first Vincentian artiste to pull off the promotion of his own show in the USA. He expressed gratitude to Dr. Cyrus for taking him along on that journey whenever he could, as well as made note of Becket’s professionalism.
‘He was the first Vincentian artiste to promote his own show successfully in the USA. He took me along with him whenever he could. His emphasis was always on professionalism and perfection. Voice training, exercise, preparation and proper eating habits were staples.in daily routine. Of course he had to remind me constantly. Becket never let people push him around or take him for granted. He knew his worth, and demanded equal value in return. Of course, Winston Soso and I,the Three Socas,benefited tremendously from the financial end.’
Scorcher spoke about Becket’s reputation as a perfectionist, and how he was never one to compromise his standards when it came to his performances. He looked back to the days when he, Becket and the late Winston Soso worked together, saying that they worked very well together.
According to Scorcher the three would decide among themselves who would close out a show on any given night. Both men would usually defer the position of closer to Becket, as they noted that Vincentians were not given any acclaim prior to Becket.
‘Becket is a perfectionist. If things are not to his standards, he is not performing! So whenever he is headlining a show, I sign on immediately. Not to mention that his shows were always sold out!.Forgive me for always mentioning Winston Soso,but the three of us worked frequently and very well together. For the most part, we decided who would close the show on any given night. Of course we would defer to Becks, according to how the present songs were doing, a decision was made collectively. Vincentians never got any international acclaim before Becket. I was told by a prominent Vincentian who lived in Montreal, Canada, and was honored in SVG, that I had to go to Trinidad and make a name before he would consider putting me on a show. Another one who was honored by the CDC in 2007,offered to put on a show without pay or stipend. Thank God that Becket was a harbinger for Vincy performers!’
Scorcher in his interview with ANN said ‘We are blessed to have had such a native son in our lifetime.’
Next in the line up of congratulatory tributes is former Chairman of the Carnival Development Corporation (CDC) Mr. Dennis Ambrose. Mr. Ambrose takes us all the way back to the days of Becket’s debut album in 1975. He also makes mention of the effect that Becket would have with the outfits he chose to perform in.
‘Becket made his first album in 1975 entitled “RAW CALYPSO” arranged by the late great arranger of Trinidad named Arthur De Coteau. From there, Becket moved on to make several successful albums with another Great Arranger – Vincentian – Dr.Frankie McIntosh.
In 1976, it was his first time singing in Trinidad in the PROFESSIONALS TENT alongside Mighty Duke & Shorty. BECKET received 10 Encores singing the tune ‘Miss Must-duck’. The Mighty Duke came to me and remarked that people were mismerised by his outfits which on one occasion was a Pink 3-piece Suit and Pink matching Shoes, and on another, it was a White 3- piece suit. He wore several remarkably high fashion outfits with matching coloured shoes. Even the MC – has to cut-in to stop the encores so they could continue on with the rest of the Show. He went on to sing with several other Tents in Trinidad e.g Young Brigade Tent, and Spectacular Forum, and did numerous Shows throughout the length and breadth of Trinidad.
In 1979, following the Trinidad Independence Parade, the Police Band played his song “COMING HIGH” from the Queen’s Park Savanah to the St. James Barracks – which was an extensive journey, and also at that time, playing such a song – it was totally un-traditional. It was amazing, and placed him on a trajectory that few non-Trinidadians had achieved.’ Ambrose stated.
Transition from his thoughts on Becket’s impact within the region, Mr. Ambrose goes on to speak about his first hand experience with Becket’s international impact when he encountered one of Dr. Cyrus’ hits at none other than Disney World. Ambrose said this moment for him, was the convincing factor that calypso has even greater potential to be tapped into.
‘In 1993, I was at Disney World with my family, and the Marching Band in the Parade there was playing “OH, LALA, OH LALA” . THAT was an extra-special surprise, that his music had reached to that pinnacle!!! And it shows that Calypso CAN TRAVEL, and cross boundaries to many other avenues across the world. This particular song had made so many strides in Trinidad, that it was almost pre-ordained to be the road-march there prior to surfacing in Disney. But they had stopped awarding that credit to non-Trinidadians in the Trinidad Carnival arena. However, it certainly was the most popular song in Trinidad.’
The former CDC chairman heaped praise on Becket for his ability to comment on various social issues through his songwriting, highlight some of the hits that he believes are great examples of Becket’s songwriting prowess.
‘As a versatile songwriter, BECKET went on to write numerous songs on a variety of social and cultural topics – local and international – which speaks to his grasp of presenting current issues in the literary framework of songs such as “Carnival History; Mas in Victoria; Vincy Mas; Love is the Answer; Teaser; St. Vincent, I love you’; Small Pin; Horn for Them; Combine [cricket]; Obama – [President USA]; Hezekiah; Gel-a-Rush Me; Gun Shot Blues and several others.’
One thing that has been consistent from tribute to tribute to Dr. Alston ‘Becket’ Cyrus, is his reputation for being a perfectionist. Mr. Ambrose comments on this as well, not only making note of this in regard to his performance but his diet as well!
‘In respect of his Personal & Professional Habits – in a single word, BECKET is Meticulous.
He is always pressing for the PERFECT sound, the PERFECT surroundings, precision in his costuming, particularly for performances to be PERFECT. He would ensure that the Band accompanying him has as many changes as he can come up with – (e.g: the drummer, changes to the Bass, to the Horns.) He had to talk to the sound engineer, or change and have his own sound engineer.
His eating habits are equally meticulous – Very particular of WHAT he eats and drinks, and WHERE he eats, the MANNER in which his food is stored, prepared and served. And true to his Calypso –“Don’t Eat and Lie Down” – he does NOT eat and lie down!’
Now Becket was not just always business and no fun, as Mr. Ambrose would get into in his spare time, most of which has always been occupied by cricket.
‘He is a very keen Cricket fan, as he will go out of his way to stay-up or wake-up to catch the match, in whichever country it was being played. One of his biggest Cricket Idols to this day is Sir Vivian Richards.
He deeply believes in Fitness and Exercise – does his regular walking, rides his bike, jogs, and swims. He also loves to play fun soft-ball cricket on the beach.
He has a great sense of humour. I recall us driving from Washington DC to New York by car, and each time we picked up speed – he would throw the gear into Neutral. When I asked why he was doing that, he explained that that was a technique to “save on gasoline”. Never heard of such a thing! – but he believed in it.’
In the later part of his tribute to Dr. Cyrus, Mr. Ambrose made mention of the generosity of Becket, showing that he had not only a golden voice on the mic, but also a heart of gold.
‘Notably, he is a very generous person. There are times that he would refuse fees if the event was not as successful as anticipated. He organizes Christmas parties for the children in his area, and sponsors many Benefit activities to assist community organisations and children activities in his beloved community of Layou.’
Despite having travelled to numerous parts of planet earth, Ambrose said Becket’s lifelong dream was to build a home in his community of Layou. According to the former CDC Chairman, this dream has been realized and Becket is now ‘fully enthralled by his love of family and friends.’