Calypsonian and Cultural Ambassador Cyril “Scorcher” Thomas was born and raised in Sion Hill, a popular and socially-conscious village overlooking capital city Kingstown in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Thomas said he always had a passion for sports, and played various sports with varying degrees of success in his native land. He played Division One Basketball; was a national volleyball player; and was the first person from Sion Hill to be selected to play soccer for St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ National Team, as a junior player and then as a senior player.
Thomas was also a student teacher, a customs officer and a magistrate clerk before he migrated to the United States. On arrival in the United States, Thomas said he was drafted into the United States Army, serving two years — 10 months of which was in Vietnam.
After leaving the Army, Scorcher said he worked at the United States Postal Service during the day and attended Brooklyn College at nights. He graduated from Brooklyn College with a bachelor’s degree in political science, a Masters of Arts in Urban Administration and an advanced degree in Educational Administration and Supervision.
Thomas taught in New York City public school system until his retirement in 2001. He then served as deputy consul general of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to New York from 2001 to 2011. Later, the government of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves named him cultural ambassador.
From an early age, Thomas said he showed a great love for music, writing many hits over the years. His first recording was in 1976 with “Wilma wok Obeah on me,” followed by notable hits, such as “Party Fever,” “Wake up the Party,” “Phantom DJ,” “Sweetness is my Weakness,” “Fork up All the Beaches,” “I am a Darkie,” “Come St. Vincent,” “Pipe Layer” and “The Legend of Soca.”
Scorcher — who has performed in the United States, England, Canada, Columbia, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada and other Caribbean islands — credits Alston “Becket” Cyrus (“The ABC of Calypso”) for putting him on “the right track.” He said Becket introduced him to Vincentian-born musical arrangers Frankie Mc Intosh and Godfrey “Cherry” Ince, who arranged Thomas’ albums and singles. Thomas also complimented singer Cauldric Forbes for his “dedication and endless hours spent” in the studio during his recordings.
He also lauded local Vincentian radio station owner Douglas “Dougie” De Freitas for “the musical input” in his career. He said De Freitas was the main person who initially played his tracks constantly, when other disc jockeys’ and sound systems refused to do so.
But Thomas said his greatest role model was the late Mary Neverson Morris.
“This proud Vincentian spent her whole life trying to improve the fortunes of the underprivileged,” he said. “‘Tall grows a man who stoops to help a child.’ These were not just spoken words, she practiced them also. There are a lot more larger-than-life figures who inspired me, but I’d rather leave this moment to my heroine and mentor, Mrs. Mary Neverson Morris.”
Thomas said “it’s always a special feeling to be singled out by your peers for special recognition. I am just so grateful that the people I served found me fit to be singled out for such a prestigious award.
“Never in my wildest dreams, and I dream a lot, did I think that my contribution to society would be considered honorable,” he said. “Many thanks should go out to my mother, Emily Thomas, who chiseled it into my head: ‘Anything you do, always do your best.’ That said, I am so humbled by this distinction that I am still waiting to wake up.”