Tobago-born calypsonian Lord Nelson (Robert Alphonso Nelson) was last Saturday presented with a Lifetime Achievement award for his devotion and commitment to Trinidad and Tobago and soca music - spanning 60 plus years and counting, at the Randy Glasgow Productions, Tobago Loves Soca (TLS) weekend, at Canoe Bay Beach resort last Saturday.
“Nello,” as the 87-year-old calypsonian is fondly called, stepped on the stage at TLS in one of his white and silver trademark jumpsuit and jacket and white hat, completed with a silver shoes and wearing a thick gold chain around his neck.
The award was presented by Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Kevin Charles on behalf of Randy Glasgow Productions in collaboration with Brothers with Vision (BWV) Entertainment. TLS weekend ran from February 15 to 17 with three major events - “Soca Spree” (February 15), “Dusk in White” (February 16) and “Wet N Wild” on February 17 at the Canoe Bay Beach Resort.
In an energetic performance onstage at the Dusk in White event, Nelson reminded the scores of fans that he was the ultimate show man, and that he loves to be called “Disco Daddy.’
He delivered hit after hit, including his own, La La, Meh Lover, King Liar and Disco Daddy, shared a dance with the event’s MC, comedian Nikki Crosby, and ended his performance by taking off his shoes.
In an interview with Newsday Tobago after his performance, Nelson said that having been overlooked so much in the past, he was in disbelief at having received this Lifetime Achievement award.
“I, Robert Alphonso Nelson, born in Plymouth Tobago… in the past they dubbed me a foreigner, said I wasn’t born here and all the competitions and awards here are for nationals.
“Arrow, Sparrow, Swallow, Church - all those people could have taken part and win now they’ve changed it over… it hurts me but in Tobago and more so in Trinidad and Tobago, stranger better that your own. But I’m back here and I’m raising hell from where it was,” he said.
Nelson said he was happy to receive the award and had flown in from his home in New York especially for the event, as he was happy to take part and be recognised in TT’s culture.
He note that his calypsoes were still very much in demand.
“All of them, all of them, you can’t pick out any, this is Lord Nelson even before… I’m 87 going on 88, it don’t have no special song for Nello, all of them are in demand,” he said.
He said he has released a song for this Carnival season, titled Bam Bam, which he said was an adapted version of his classic, La La, recorded as a duet with a young New York-based artiste.
Asked about the secret to his health and longevity Nelson said:
“I believe in God and I stay away from terrible things. If I open my mouth you go zip it up, so let it stay so.”
Describing himself as a seafood freak, Nelson attributed his health to his diet of seafood.
“The only thing I don’t eat form the sea and I don’t like it because I’m scared of it. is eel.
“Saltfish is another favourite of mine… I like it with bone, I like it without bone. I like it with dumpling, I like it with not too much salt. I love saltfish,” he said.
Nelson, a Korean War veteran said the United States took care of him, referring to the time he was drafted into the US Army.
“War is not what you see on the movies here, that’s a story about war but war is hell.
“Thank God I’ve been there, and I’ve come back… I’m honourable Korean War veteran, United States of America. I’ve been where most people have only heard about,” he said.
He said he did not know anything about calypso when he was stationed in Korea and learnt by patterning himself after calypsonians like Mighty Sparrow, Melody and Kitchener, and so he sang calypsoes for fellow soldiers.