Podcast host appeals for memories of Trinidad musician’s Leith residency at the Eldorado Ballroom

For generations, the Eldorado Ballroom in Leith was the place to dance the night away to some of the best bands of the day come the weekend.

Carl Barriteau
Carl Barriteau

One of those was Trinidad-born clarinetist Carl Barriteau​, who won a brand new fan recently when a long forgotten photograph donated to the Wee Museum of Memory in Ocean Termin​al sparked the interest of the Living Memory Association’s Miles Tubb.

Miles presents the weekly podcast Forgotten ​S​ongs from the Broom Cupboard​​, which uncovers the stories behind rare 78rpm records from lesser known artists​ and he is keen to discover if anyone in the Capital remembers Barriteau.

He explains, ​"We'd had this photo of a musician in our archives for some 20 years. T​he woman who donated it said it had belonged to her father, but she didn't know ​who the musician was, only ​that he was well known. Doing the podcast I thought, ‘I should really find out who he is,’ so I put the photo on my ​I​nstagram page and a guy from Tennessee used the photo identity app Tin Eye​ to​ identify him, he discovered it was Carl Barriteau​ who was well known in the 40s​."

Miles Tubb of Forgotten Songs from the Broom Cupboard podcast

Born in 1914 Barriteau ​received​ his early musical tuition at the Belmont Orphanage​,​ Trinidad​. He moved ​to the UK in May​ ​1937​ and just​ 12 days later secured a place in Ken 'Snakehips' Johnson's band playing alto sax and clarinet. Working with Johnson until March 1941 when both were caught in an air-raid – Johnson was killed, Barriteau suffered a broken wrist. The ​musician ​then formed the ​West Indian Dance Orchestra​​. However it's the next chapter in Barriteau career that has captured Tubb's imagination, from May 1949 ​he had a two year residency at the Eldorado Ballroom.​ ​

"Over the years, many people have brought 78s to the Wee Museum of Memory. ​When I started doing the podcast, I looked through them, finding those that were a bit more unusual."

Researching those long forgotten performers Miles then tells their story during his podcast.

"The stories are a huge part of the draw,” he says. “One record I found from the Thirties was by Master Joe Peterson, who was billed as 'the phenomenal boy singer' except he wasn't a boy, he was a woman. At the time boy sopranos were in vogue. The record label had decided that rather than have a series of boys whose voices would break they’d have this poor woman, Mary O'Rourke, who even in her 40s was still dressing as a boy."

Barriteau's story is equally compelling. As a soloist​ he won the Melody Maker clarinet poll seven years running and performed with the likes of The Platters​. ​He died in 1998.

​Despite his popularity, Barriteau was by no means a wealthy during his time in Leith.​

"A line in his obituary notes it wasn't a financially rewarding time and that he was ‘very loathe to leave his flat’ because he had, basically, fiddled the gas meter and had an eternal supply of free gas. Whoever wrote that obituary must have spoken to someone who knew him when he was here. There must be someone out there who remembers him and I would love them to get in touch."

Visit Miles Tubb's Forgotten Songs from the Broom Cupboard podcast at https://forgottensongs.libsyn.com/

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.