By Neto Baptiste
As tributes for the late calypso and soca icon, Sir Rupert “King Swallow” Philo, continue to pour in, three of the country’s most successful international cricketers have labelled his contribution to the art form and his influence on their cricketing career as unforgettable and invaluable.
Speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, former fast bowler and the first Antiguan to represent the West Indies senior men’s team, Sir Andy Roberts said he shared a special friendship with Sir Rupert and has called for the renaming of the highway leading into his hometown of Willikies in his honour.
“Many of you never knew that Swallow was a fast bowler. Another thing why I cannot forget Swallow was, every year, I used to have my record album sent to Urlings. While I was away playing County cricket, Swallow’s music was one of the things that kept me going and I don’t know if you’ll remember he had a song in 1974 called Bowl Them Fruity; so those are the things that kept me going in County cricket,” he said.
“One of the things that I would really love to see is that in the near future, we could raise a banner on that stretch of road going up to Willikies saying Sir Rupert Philo’s Highway,” he added.
The legendary singer, songwriter and composer, died on September 11 at his home in Willikies at the age of 78.
Former West Indies captain and explosive batsman, Sir Richie Richardson, said he has long been a fan of King Swallow.
“First of all, let me just say that I am deeply saddened over the passing of a great legend of soca and calypso and I’ve always been a fan of King Swallow since I was a little boy. Back in the day when there was tremendous rivalry and competition between him and [Sir McLean ‘King Short Shirt’ Emanuel] even though I know Short Shirt was probably the greatest, I used to back Swallow because I liked his style and the way he performed,” he said.
“As a person, whenever you saw him, he was always very humble and down to earth so I always really loved and admired Swallow and he’s produced hits after hits but his legacy will live on. We should continue to celebrate King Swallow. My favourite calypso song was Dawn of a New Day and my favourite soca song was Don’t Stop This Party,” the former player added.
Meanwhile, one of the most successful fast bowlers of all times with 405 wickets in 98 Tests, Sir Curtly Ambrose, said having the opportunity to play back up music for the former monarch was one of the greatest moments of his musical career.
“Swallow and I became pretty close friends in the early ‘90s and one of the things I told him since I started playing music was that if is one thing I want to do before my music career is over, is to back up you, King Swallow, on a stage. I’ve had the privilege to have done that with Spirited Band on several occasions and that to me, was a serious joy, a pleasure because I totally enjoyed backing up the king. As recently as last year down at Splash during the Carnival celebrations was the last time we did it,” he said.
“I just want to say publicly, condolences to his family; it is a sad loss and we all just hope that his soul rests in peace and his legacy and his songs will live on for a long time,” Sir Curtly added.
A four-time Calypso Monarch and five-time Road March winner in Antigua and Barbuda, King Swallow won over audiences across the region with songs such as Fire in the Backseat, Subway Jam, Party In Space and Satan Coming Down, amongst many others.
King Swallow was awarded the Order of Merit (Gold), and the Grand Cross of Princely Heritage by the government of Antigua and Barbuda. Each award was conferred in recognition of his sterling contribution to the calypso art form.