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'Calypso King' who boosted tourism dies aged 91

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The “Calypso King” whose fame as an entertainer helped turn the island’s tourism industry into a powerhouse has died.

Stan “Lord Necktie” Seymour was 92.

Mr Seymour performed alongside top names in Bermuda music such as Hubert Smith and the Coral Islanders after he joined the group as a teenager in the 1950s.

But family and fellow musicians said Mr Seymour was a versatile solo performer who enthralled audiences with his singing, acting and stories.

He was given a Lifetime Achievement award and was named entertainer of the year in the 1996 Brammies, the Bermuda recording industry's annual awards ceremony.

Mr Seymour’s stellar career also got him a place on the 2014 Queen’s New Year’s Honours List

He said at the time: “When I think of all the years I put into music, composing and touring, it’s so rewarding to get this – it makes my heart feel good.”

Mr Seymour added in the interview that he picked up the lifelong nickname “Lord Necktie” for sporting “the longest tie in history” at one of his early performances.

Mr Seymour scored a surprise hit with Diddly Bops and the Gooseneck Handlebars, a calypso tribute to the mobylettes common on the roads in the 1960s.

The homage to unsteady teenage drivers was an instant success with radio listeners and was covered in Barbados by The Merrymen.

Ernest Peets, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports, called him “a true cultural and tourism ambassador for Bermuda”.

Dr Peets added: “He was a popular fixture at local hotels and at the arrival hall of our airport, and he delighted in engaging residents and tourists alike with his infectious, original melodies about Bermuda, which he strummed on his guitar.”

He said the ministry was grateful for Mr Seymour’s contribution in shaping the island’s culture.

“An icon in his own right, Stan was a gifted song writer, composer and singer who performed for dignitaries, royalty and for us here at home,” Dr Peets said.

“And while he will be greatly missed, we are thankful that we have the amazing gift of his musical legacy which will live on for generations.”

Mr Seymour traced his talent to his grandfather, James Seymour, another accomplished solo act.

He said he picked up his first guitar at age 13.

His brother, veteran broadcaster and columnist for The Royal Gazette Al Seymour Sr, said he had listened to his brother practise on the instrument at the same time he was trying out his radio voice as an announcer.

Al Sr said: “I told him, ’You’re not getting anywhere playing like that’ and Stan said ’Nobody’s going to hire you either’.”

But both ended up household names in their chosen fields.

Al Sr added: “He made his mark in the entertainment field, abroad as well as Bermuda.

“He had a great sense of humour to keep him going on those tough shifts performing at the hotels.

“He helped promote Bermuda as people came looking for that type of music – those groups played a major part in the historic journey of Bermuda tourism.”

Al Sr said “Lord Necktie” had given up a promising career in cricket for his art.

He added: “It was one of his favourite pastimes, but he was worried about playing guitar – he didn’t want to injure his hand.”

Al Jr, Mr Seymour’s nephew and the programming director for CITV, the government TV station, said the family came from a long line of artists.

Mr Seymour, alongside Al and their late brother Keith, shot their own movies on 8mm film in the 1950s.

Al Jr said their movie, The Bicycle Thief, almost got one of them arrested as they filmed the stealing of a bike.

He said the trio’s moviemaking helped spark his desire for a broadcasting career.

Al Jr said his uncle could improvise jingles on the spot.

These included a short tune about Bermuda kites that still airs on CITV’s annual programme on the tradition.

“Lord Necktie” also came up with music for his nephew’s popular TV cartoon series, Raptiles on de Rock.

Another improvised tune became a commercial for Bermuda’s switch from sterling to the dollar in 1970.

Al Jr said his uncle had left a steady job as a postman to chase his musical dream and recorded albums throughout his life on the island’s Edmar Records label.

Mr Seymour was also committed to preserving Bermuda’s heritage and published Bermuda, Folklore and Calypso Poems in 1995.

Dale Butler, a former Government minister and historian, said Mr Seymour was "one of the most creative calypso composers and singers Bermuda had ever produced“.

Mr Butler added: “He played in all of our hotels and guests houses and at Rosedon received royal treatment during his weekly performances there.”

Mr Butler said he produced “a litany of songs that were captivating and historic”.

He added: “He was an automatic hit just walking on stage with his colourful huge tie as the winner of a calypso contest where he appeared as Lord Necktie.

“Bermuda music was shaped by the people from the people of his era.

“Long may his memory live and his music be added to the new school curriculum.”

Gene Steede, another veteran musician, said: “He was the star who could not only play calypso but act it out – it was like watching a Broadway show.

“He had a natural talent for acting, singing and telling stories. He could get up by himself and entertain an audience.”

Mr Steede added Mr Seymour’s calypso skills ranked alongside fellow master Reuben “Lord Flea” McCoy.

June Caisey, another veteran of the entertainment industry, said: “Back then entertainers were very close. No animosity, no rivalry – we were just happy for each other.

“He was very natural – a beautiful, gentle soul, very unassuming man who didn’t strut his stuff, but was humble.”

Stanley Albert Richard Seymour, Bermuda’s Calypso King, was born on June 9, 1929. He died on February 1, 2021. Mr Seymour was 91.

This story was amended on Friday, February 5 to include comments from Ernest Peets, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports.

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Published February 05, 2021 at 8:35 am (Updated February 05, 2021 at 1:41 pm)

'Calypso King' who boosted tourism dies aged 91

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