August 29, 2014
Frankie McIntosh receives honorary doctorate from homeland

The Association of Writers of SVG (AWSVG) has bestowed on legendary Vincentian musician Frankie McIntosh an honorary doctorate.{{more}}

A release from the association said upon receiving the degree, McIntosh expressed gratitude to the AWSVG and he said ebulliently, “this degree will always occupy a special place in my home and heart.”

McIntosh hails from an illustrious musical family from St Vincent and the Grenadines, whose contribution to the local music scene and ambassadorship abroad is still very relevant today.

A release from the AWSVG said the McIntosh family was core to an official orchestra developing, which happened in the 50s and onwards, in addition to which they popularized and refined – especially so Frankie – a development of the art of calypso, soca, to international standards. Syl – saxophone, Ricky – piano, Godfrey – trumpet – all very important musicians themselves, still fall short of Frankie’s lucid, melodic, and harmonically sound playing. However, it is arranging and the art of “putting things together” musically which sets Frankie apart from almost every other Caribbean musician of note.

“One of the finest examples of Frankie’s musicianship is his collaboration with Becket on the classic track ‘Wine Down Kingstown,’ road march in SVG in 1978. It is at once classical (the fluent non-syncopated melodically adventurous runs in the synthesizer), it is also jazz – seventh chord with blues thirds in the brass, and it is intrinsically Caribbean, the rhythm and instrumentation of the other voices. The current music of the Caribbean is really lacking in comparison to this and all other Frankie McIntosh efforts.

“Other examples of Frankie’s arrangements which are noteworthy, include his collaboration with Sparrow which constituted a comeback; it captured the road march – after Sparrow had been having a dry spell. The tune in question was ‘Don’t Back Back on me.’

“His arrangement on the Chalkdust track ‘Jonestown massacre’ is deemed as having one of the best bass lines in the history of Caribbean music. Mighty Duke’s sterling mega hit, ‘Thunder,’ was also a McIntosh innovation.”

Other hits include “Disco Ivy” by Asterix, “Wet me down” and “I feel to party” by Johnny King.

Frankie was born in August, 1946 and was a prodigy at age three, playing the flute, and by age 9, he was the keyboardist for the Melotones, a popular dance band.

According to the release, his own band was performing across St Vincent and the Grenadines by the time he was 17 years old and his first extracurricular gig was in neighbouring Antigua, three years later with the Laviscount orchestra.

Frankie was then already a competent musician by the time he migrated to the U S to study and obtain his Bachelor of Arts Music degree. While in America, in addition, he freelanced for several jazz groups and artists the likes of Jimmy Tyler, Snug Mosely, Donald Maynard in locales as eclectic as Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, Florida and New York, including gigs with Cabaret band ‘wonderful world of Charlie Browne and Yvonne’.

According to a Vincy Cares article “In 1978 Alston ‘Becket’ Cyrus approached Frankie McIntosh with calypso material and a musical relationship emerged. The ‘maestro’ arranged Becket’s album ‘Coming High,’ which launched Becket’s career nationally and led him to being signed with Casablanca records.

This relationship was to continue for 12 Becket albums, including ‘Gal Ah Rush Me,” which spawned the national hit ‘Teaser,’ which was best song and best arranged song at the Caribbean Grammy awards held at the renowned Apollo theater in New York.

Frankie, in addition to his B.A. in music, holds a Masters of Art in Music from New York University and has received numerous citations and honours from various organisations and record companies.

Caribbean music likely will never see the likes of Frankie McIntosh for years to come.