Similar to another Guyanese (Cyril Shaw) who, in 1955, ‘discovered’ Francisco Slinger “Mighty Sparrow,” James Cannings ‘discovered’ Soca King Arrow.
“In 1970, as a professional musician in Montserrat, I lived with the famous Caribbean radio personality, Julian Rogers, and his wife, Denise. During that time, I played the saxophone and organ with Dasha and the Flames. In the next house down the hill from us lived a guy known as Fauncy. Fauncy wore an Afro with an Afro comb stuck in the back of his hair. He also drove a car and sold insurance. Other than politely exchanging a mutual ‘Hi,’ we never conversed.
One Christmas season night, Dasha told me to show up to play for a calypso contest. I had no rehearsal with the contestants. I played the organ with my head down, so as to concentrate on the calypsonians up front. Suddenly, on stage, there was this calypsonian who sang out-of-time. Looking up, I saw that it was the same guy who lived downhill. I was surprised, because I didn’t know him to be a calypsonian. I was forced to stop playing so as to make us both sound musically correct whenever he sang too many words. However, Fauncy won the contest that night. I later learned that he was also Montserrat’s Calypso King.
I advised him backstage that his songs had too many lyrics. He immediately requested that he pick me up every morning before work so that I could show him ‘how to do it right.’ Thenceforth, every morning, we drove to the beach and sat under a tree while I edited all of his songs.
His mistake was that he wrote his songs like an essay. So, I first showed him that a measure of music can hold only so many beats (notes) and that his words had to conform to that basic principle while maintaining the meaning of his song. Fauncy never argued. He was well rehearsed in singing out-of-time; so, I taught him how to keep the beat.
As a musician, I sometimes kept late nights. So, those early morning wake-ups were not always pleasant. I buried my head in my pillow praying for him to turn back when I heard his car coming up the hill; but he was committed. On those mornings, I reluctantly — but dutifully — got up, prepared myself, picked up my guitar, and entered his car. I never let him know what was going on in my head.
Julian Rogers was the first to give Fauncy a break. Julian made arrangements with Bunny Best of Barbados WIRL Records to record Fauncy. At Julian’s suggestion, Fauncy invited me to go to Barbados. I hired the Fantastics of Barbados and rehearsed him. The session at CBC was cancelled due to technical problems.
In 1971, I left Montserrat for the U.S. Then, in the 1980’s, I vaguely became aware of a song called “Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot” and that a guy named ‘Arrow’ sang it. Somehow, I found out that Fauncy was ‘Arrow.’
In 1985, Arrow was perfoming in St. Maartin. At my invitation, he showed up at Bronese Recording Studio where I was the chief rngineer. He said to everybody present, “I would not be where I am, were it not for him” (pointing to me).
While backstage before his show in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Arrow asked if I still played the guitar. He then invited me to accompany him on Dayo. Onstage, he announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have someone very special in the audience. James Cannings, stand up! Folks, let’s give him a round of applause. Were it not for him,” (pointing to me), “this would not be” (pointing to himself and band). “James, come up on stage, let’s do Dayo.” It was a very savoring moment for me because not many famous artistes acknowledge those who are instrumental to their success.
A 2008 phone call to Arrow in Montserrat and an arrangement to meet in New York never materialized. On Sept. 14, 2010, Guyanese musician, Chet, informed me of Arrow’s passing. Clarence Wears (Andre Tanker’s and Byron Lee’s guitarist) informed Chet of the sad news. Guyanese musician, Gregory Yhip, e-mailed a caption to me: “Hot Hot Hot” singer, Arrow, dies at 60.”
It’s sad that Arrow left us so early but he left us with a happy song, “Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot.” Thanks, Arrow, for involving me in your life and for your acknowledgements.
Rest in peace, my friend.”