Oscar Mason is one of Antigua and Barbuda’s musical legends. I came across a picture I took back in the 1990s during my time at the Antigua Sun newspaper, covering a Mason family concert which I think may have been organized as a tribute by one of the hardest working women in Culture at the time, Auntie Esther Henry. Oscar Mason’s band at its height was way before my time, but when they got on stage en masse and jammed that night, it was electric. Finding this picture took me back and given that this site promotes Antiguan and Barbudan cultural arts (albeit with an emphasis on the literary arts and on Wadadli Pen in particular), I decided to share it. But I wanted to pull up some information on Mason to support it. My computer wasn’t an option thanks to the big computer crash of ’05 (or ’06, or maybe ’07, one of the 00s anyway). And searching online turned up woefully little. Which, coming on the heels of my online dig for the official citations on our national heroes, puts me back on my soap box about our need to create online content about us, by us. It is one of the challenges which this site though undermanned (or should that be underwomanned?) continues to embrace with our literary bibliographies and such. We really need to do better in this area; I mean, we’re giving out laptops and ipads to students here in Antigua and Barbuda and while the desire to bridge the digital divide is well intended, content creation seems like a natural intersection to me. *stepping off soap box* Anyway, I eventually found a google cache of the Carnival 50th anniversary magazine.
For copyright reasons I won’t produce the article here in its entirety but I will pull ten points of trivia:
- Oscar Mason was born on November 10th 1916 in the Point area.
- As a youth, he was captivated by the performances of the big musical bands from America – Glen Miller, Duke Ellington and the great Louie (Satchmo) Armstrong – and decided he wanted to play the trumpet.
- Hubert Edwards taught him to play the trumpet.
- Governor Fiennes, who was stationed in Antigua, bought him his first trumpet.
- In 1940, he formed his own band and called it the Antigua Glen Miller Band.
- He was jack of all trades, hence his nickname, ‘Jacks.’
- At Christmastime, Oscar would exhibit his skills as a stiltwalker (moco jumbie).
- Because of his musical and creative abilities, he made himself a stringbass, the first of its kind ever to be made in Antigua and Barbuda.
- He taught his children to play; his family band was called Sons of the Vibratones and one of his eldest sons, Tyrone Mason, is celebrated as one of the best tenor saxophone players in Antigua and Barbuda today.
- During the Carnival season for many years, his band would back-up all the calypsonians.
As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.