Growling Tiger

b. Neville Marcano, 1915, Siparia, Trinidad, West Indies, d. 13 May 1993. Marcano took up boxing as a teenager (he was known as the Siparia Tiger), winning the flyweight championship of Trinidad in 1929.…
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Artist Biography

b. Neville Marcano, 1915, Siparia, Trinidad, West Indies, d. 13 May 1993. Marcano took up boxing as a teenager (he was known as the Siparia Tiger), winning the flyweight championship of Trinidad in 1929. In 1934 he started to perform calypsos as a way of supporting himself. Taking the name Growling Tiger, he was soon winning calypso competitions with his witty socially concerned compositions. Although the youngest of the calypsonians who emerged in the 30s, Tiger’s style harked back to calypso’s African, French and Spanish roots (although he was also influenced by pop crooners of the day such as Bing Crosby and Maurice Chevalier). He recorded 46 songs for the Decca Records calypso series, as well as recording duets with fellow calypsonians like Atilla The Hun and King Radio. Growling Tiger retained his popularity throughout the 40s and 50s. However, by the early 60s his fortunes were on the wane. This was in part owing to the rise of young modern sounding artists such as the Mighty Sparrow and Lord Kitchener, but also because of a calypso Tiger had performed at the 1959 Carnival, that was critical of the private life of the President of Trinidad. This led to a campaign of intimidation against Tiger. In 1962 he was the only calypsonian to be recorded by the renowned ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax during his Caribbean field trip of that year. These recordings, on Neville Marcano - The Growling Tiger Of Calypso, are a valuable document of an earlier age of calypso music, with their rambling, story-telling lyrics and string band instrumentation (featuring violin, flute, guitar and percussion). Tiger continued to make occasional live appearances, wrote for other singers and also published songbooks. In 1966 he appeared at the Newport Folk Festival, where he made a further recording with Lomax (two tracks from which can also be found on Neville Marcano - the Growling Tiger Of Calypso). He also met and befriended Yomo Toro the Puerto Rican cuatro player (four-string folk guitar). In 1979 Toro led the Trans-Caribbean All-Star Orchestra that backed Tiger on the recording session for his Knockdown Calypso album. Also featuring trumpeter Alfredo ‘Chocolate’ Armenteros and bass player Bobby Rodriguez (both highly respected on the Cuban music scene), along with musicians from Trinidad, the album was one of the few to feature an old-time calypsonian in a modern studio session. Growling Tiger died in 1993, following a long illness.