Mighty Fisher still haunted by close losses for calypso crown

Kenneth “Fisher” Fenton came close to winning the Montserrat calypso monarch title several times in the 1970s. He’s still haunted by those failures.

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Kenneth “Fisher” Fenton had a hit in 1973 with Country Man, but some accused him of stoking division between folks from town and the country. “That was never my intention,” he says.

When the final singer stepped off stage to conclude the 1974 Montserrat Festival calypso finals, Kenneth “Fisher” Fenton was certain he had won the crown. He had delivered two well-received songs: Strive Brother Strive and Saint John’s Coming Like Vietnam. His supporters, hundreds of whom had made the 10-mile trek from Saint John’s to Sturge Park in Plymouth, were highly optimistic that Fisher would be chosen by the judges as the new calypso king. Minutes later, as show emcee Alfred “Warrior” Christopher prepared to announce the final decision, several of Fisher’s friends hoisted the calypsonian on their shoulders. Back then, only the top three finishers were revealed.

“Second runner-up, the Mighty Ruler!” Christopher shouted.

Fisher and his friends were bursting with anticipation. One more name before the big moment, they figured.

Then reality hit like a thunderbolt.

“First runner-up, the Mighty Fisher!”

Many in the crowd were stunned. As for Fisher himself, it was a painful moment – literally and figuratively.

“When they announced me as first runner-up, the guys who were holding me up just dropped me to the ground. They walked on my stomach and nearly trampled me. They ran to the front of the stage and started making noise. I don’t even think they realize what they did. I had to crawl under the stage to catch my breath.”

The winner that night was Alphonsus “Arrow” Cassell, who would go on to international soca fame. Fisher finished first runner-up for the second year in a row. A year earlier he lost to Arrow’s brother, Justin “Hero” Cassell. Some suspect that Fisher’s rural roots worked against him while competing against the Cassells, who lived on the outskirts of the capital. At any rate, Fisher harbors no ill will toward the brothers. Fisher, an architect and artist by trade, created the artwork on a T-shirt for Arrow’s 1976 hit Trample Dem and also designed the cover of Arrow’s 1977 album Ruthless Rhythm.

His main ire is directed toward the judges.

Before becoming a calypsonian, Fisher was first and foremost a calypso fan. He attended his first calypso show in 1967 at the Montserrat Secondary School and watched Warrior hold off Arrow to win the crown. The following year, at age 16, Fisher entered the competition. The show was held at the Tomato Factory in Plymouth. Arrow and many of the other calypsonians boycotted in protest of the poor cash prizes being awarded by the Jaycees. Fisher and three other debutantes – Young Warrior, Killman and Terror (Jackie Fyah) – entered. Fisher sang Congrats to Clive Lloyd and Soul Time. He finished last. Young Warrior won, inheriting the crown from his brother, Warrior, who got married in 1968 and retired from the competition. Fisher’s alias for that show was “Lord Silvershirt,” even though he had already earned the “Fisher” nickname. While at Montserrat Secondary School, he wrote an essay on British explorer Sir Martin Frobisher. But he flubbed the name during an oral presentation and called the famous seaman “Fisher-ber.” His classmates teased him and began calling him “Fisher-ber” – and later shortened it to “Fisher.” The name stuck. Some people even thought Fisher was his actual surname. “Lord Silvershirt” was retired. He used “Mighty Fisher” for all subsequent calypso competitions.

Kenneth “Fisher” Fenton
is pictured in 1974.

Following a three-year boycott, the calypso show resumed in 1972. Six calypsonians reached the finals: Fisher, Young Warrior, Defender, Hero, Attacker and Ruler. Hero prevailed, Ruler was first runner-up, and Fisher tied with Attacker for second runner-up. In 1973, Fisher returned with arguably his most popular song, Country Man, but was again foiled by Hero and settled for first runner-up. After the stunning loss to Arrow in 1974, he competed in 1975, 1976 and 1977, but failed to place. In 1976, his younger brother, Wallace “Rhadyo” Fenton, joined the competition. The 1977 show, won by Ishmael “Cutter” Skerritt, was Fisher’s last appearance in the finals. His half brother, John “Black Prince” O’Garro, also left the competition (due to health reasons) but continued to record songs such as his hits O-Lam-O and Jam Session Festival. Rhadyo tied for first runner-up in 1978 and had another strong showing in ’79 with his hit Swordman. In 1980, Fisher got the itch again. He sang in the eliminations and advanced. But he was unhappy with the band’s rehearsal of his song and dropped out.

Fisher didn’t leave calypso completely. He was a judge and writer for several years. But decades later, he is still bothered by those close defeats in ’73 and ’74.

“I worked hard on my calypsoes,” Fisher says. “I’m not saying that every year I competed I should have won. But the judges had their favorites. Sometimes when they announced the judges’ names on the night of the show, I knew I didn’t stand a chance.”

Mighty Fisher's Calypso Results

YearSongsFinish
1968"Soul Time" & "Congrats To Clive Lloyd"Fourth
1972"Revelation" & "Flashing Back to Slavery"2nd runner-up
1973"Country Man"1st runner-up
1974"St. John's Coming Like Vietnam" & "Strive Brother Strive"1st runner-up
1975"Bringing Back de Trophy" & "Beautiful Montserrat"Did not place
1976"Corrupt Word" & "Guitar Man"Did not place
1977"Education" & "Power"Did not place

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