According to archival records in Atlanta, Georgia, Coca-Cola first made its appearance on the Caribbean island of Trinidad in 1919 when a bootlegging bottler named Ernest Canning (no formal connection to the Coca-Cola Company) got together some empty Coke bottles, lined up a source of the famous syrup, probably from a licensed bottler in Cuba, and began bottling the soft drink in Port of Spain with simple hand-operated machinery.  This unusual arrangement continued until 1940 when Mr. Canning, newly licensed, decided to modernize his operation by installing the latest automated equipment, an investment which paid off famously the following year when American troops were sent to Trinidad to protect the British Crown Colony from Nazi attack. By 1943 there were 25,000 armed forces personnel patrolling the island and the consumption of Coca-Cola increased by a factor of ten - from 10,000 cases a month to 100,000 cases!


Apparently, what was good for the sales of Coke was also good for those who drank it. The company commissioned studies during the war which “proved” that soldiers who had access to Coca-Cola performed better than their dry counterparts. [1]




Coca-Cola, of course, was not the only beverage to find favor with the American boys. No sales figures are available but it is a safe bet that the locally distilled rum, which was often drunk concurrently with Coca-Cola, enjoyed a surge in consumption no less dramatic. In fact "rum and Coke" was probably the favorite mixed drink on the island with soldier and civilian alike.


During the American "occupation" of Trinidad there were many opportunities for the thirsty GI's to sip a rum and Coke but none more refreshing than on a little outing with some of the young ladies of the colony. In fact the mutual appreciation of these two groups soon became legendary. Rum and Coca-Cola, it seemed, was not only their drink of choice but also their guiding metaphor: just as the two sugar-based liquids - one North American and one West Indian - swirled together in a glass, so too the Yankee soldiers "mixed" with the young women of Trinidad. [2]


In early 1943 a local calypso singer who had released some records in the U.S. on the Decca label wrote a song about this social phenomenon. The singer's name was Rupert W. Grant, known professionally as "Lord Invader", and the song was called "Rum and Coca-Cola". The first verse (of five) and the chorus went like this:


"Since the Yankees came to Trinidad

They have the young girls goin' mad.

The young girls say they treat 'em nice

And they give them a better price.


They buy rum and Coca-Cola,

Go down Point Cumana.

Both mother and daughter

Workin' for the Yankee dollar." [3]


To say that "Rum and Coca-Cola" was a big hit would be like saying that World War II was a big bother. In fact, the song shook the island to its volcanic core. Later, in a federal courtroom in New York City, Lord Invader would state that he had to sing it "three times a night" - probably making up new verses on the spot in true calypso style - in order to satisfy his listeners.  The audience just couldn't get enough of it, especially the first line of the chorus with the flip-flop stresses on the name of the famous beverage. The audience all joined Invader in singing that part.



"Rum and Coca-Cola" was first performed in front of a paying audience on the night of March 1 in Port of Spain at the Victory Calypso Tent - a calypso "tent" being in those days, as now, an informal concert hall set up for the pre-Lenten carnival season. The manager and factotum of the tent was a businessman named Mohamed H. Khan, originally from British Guiana. It was his first year in the calypso arena and he brought with him some new practices like dividing his seating area into different price categories - from 25¢ to 1$. Also, with so many foreigners (Khan stated under oath that there were two hundred U.S. soldiers in the audience on any given night) coming to the tent in 1943, he got an idea for a "Souvenir Collection" - a booklet which printed the lyrics to some of the songs. The booklet sold well - about 1500 copies - and started a trend which continues today. Neatly printed on page ten of the booklet were the words to "Rum and Coca-Cola". [5]


But Khan went further. In order to protect his booklet from competition, he decided to copyright it by depositing three copies with the colonial secretary, as required by British law. On the cover were the words "All Rights Reserved by M.H. KHAN".


In copyrighting the booklet Khan didn’t bother to get a written assignment from the different songwriters he was working with. In fact, he wasn't intending to copyright the songs themselves, just the formatted booklet. Or was he?


This question would one day occupy the busiest legal minds in North America.


                                                                   

                                                          *                                            *                                                *


On September 29, 1943, seven months after the first performance of "Rum and Coca-Cola", a USO (United Service Organizations) "camp show" arrived in Trinidad to entertain the homesick troops. (There was never any fighting in Trinidad.)  Headlining the show was the
husband and wife team of actress Mabel Todd, known for her piercing voice and screwball wit, and Morey Amsterdam, an up-and-coming radio comedian who once described himself as a "well-dressed hangover". [6]


According to the local newspaper, the troupe was "one of the best ever to visit Trinidad."  Much of the credit for its success must go to Mr. Amsterdam. As master of ceremonies he had an uncanny knack of adapting each show to conditions as he found them and taking his comic material from the local grapevine. [7]


The way Morey told it later, the inspiration for the Trinidad show came upon him like this: he was out for a drive in the vicinity of the Navy Base. In the car with him was a solder who was mumbling some doggerel - something like "rum and Coca-Cola kill the Yankee soldier." [8] According to Mr. Amsterdam it was the only time he heard any song or slogan in Trinidad which questioned the military readiness of the soldiers or mentioned the American soft drink. In any event he took what he heard, threw in some sun and sex, and whipped up a song about the easy virtue of the local women and the free-spending ways of the American boys. Before he left the island Mr. Amsterdam claims to have written 105 verses, all slightly off-color, all based on the same theme. Here's an example:


"From Chica-chi-carry to Mona's Isle Native girls all dance and smile.

They wear grass skirts, but that's okay -Yankee like to "hit the hay".  [9]



The soldiers loved this sort of thing so much that Morey kept singing the song throughout the rest of the tour - in Aruba, Curacao, and other islands. He used the same formula and simply changed the place names as he went along. [10]


*                            *                            *


The USO troupe returned to the States in the late fall of 1943. Whether it was the rigors of the wartime Caribbean or the languors or something else entirely, the trip took a bitter toll on Mabel Todd and Morey Amsterdam - their marriage was wrecked beyond repair. The couple decided to separate, and a complicated divorce followed.  Ms. Todd returned to her old haunts in Hollywood and Mr. Amsterdam relocated to New York City. He was soon back on the radio, hosting a variety show on WHN called - "Gloom Dodgers".  [11]


A few months later, in the spring of 1944, Morey met a young nightclub singer with a honey-coated contralto voice named Jeri Sullavan.  Ms. Sullavan said she was looking for a "novelty song" she could use in her upcoming engagement at the Versailles Restaurant, a popular Manhattan night spot.
Morey told her about a song he had "written" while he was in the West Indies, a song called "Rum and Coca-Cola." He cautioned her that the song was not really suitable for a young lady to sing but she said she would give it a try anyway. [12]


On June 13, 1944 the audience at the Versailles was treated to the first American performance of "Rum and Coca-Cola". The response? Well, according to Morey, Miss Sullavan called soon afterwards with a startling request - could he give her a couple more verses of the song? It seemed the song was such a hit that the audience was demanding endless encores! [13]


Just what was this novelty song that had captured the imagination of New York? Well, here is the first verse and chorus as they later appeared in print:


"Since the Yankees came to Trinidad

They got the young girls all going mad.

The young girls say they treat them nice -

Make Trinidad like paradise.


Drinkin' rum and Coca-Cola,

Go down Point Koo-mah-nah;

Both mother and daughter

Workin' for the Yankee dollar." [14]


You don't have to be an expert in copyright law to see that this "Rum and Coca-Cola" had been siphoned from Lord Invader's glass. It had the same title, same chorus, one of the same verses (almost) and the same melody! (Mr. Amsterdam, and probably Miss Sullavan too, added several of their own verses which were more suitable for a U.S. audience.)


Although his new song was a big success, this was not an easy time for Morey Amsterdam. He was a man much distracted. He spent a good part of the summer in California, thrashing out the details of his divorce from Mabel Todd. Meanwhile, Jeri Sullavan and her arranger, a man named Paul Baron, continued to advance the popularity of the song in New York. Miss Sullavan entered into a verbal agreement (later formalized) with Leo Feist, Inc. to publish the song, pending approval from the Coca-Cola Company, and she almost certainly cut a demo record with Feist's support over the summer.


When Morey Amsterdam returned to New York he tried, belatedly, to recapture the momentum. On September 27, 1944 he sent an application to the U.S. Copyright Office for "Rum and Coca-Cola", listing himself as the sole author of the words and music. But it was too late - Jeri Sullavan threatened legal action and Amsterdam agreed, under pressure from Feist, to amend the copyright to include Sullavan, and also Paul Baron. [15]


Looking back on it, the song during the summer of '44 was like the stolen treasure in an old black-and-white movie. Jeri Sullavan, strongly suspecting that the song did not really belong to Amsterdam, felt she had just as much right to claim it as he did. Or, to put it another way, she realized that she was in a strong position to blackmail him (threaten to expose him) if he failed to share credit.


Lord Invader, meanwhile, was still in Trinidad, unable to travel or record because of the war.


***


"Rum and Coca-Cola" had been a hit in New York, but how well would it do in a dry state like Kansas? This question was pretty well answered when the Andrews Sisters, America's favorite female singing group, expressed an interest in recording the song. Meanwhile, the other pieces were falling into place - the Coca-Cola Company gave its tacit approval for Feist to publish the song in sheet music form and license recordings, live performances, etc. [16]


The three harmonious sisters recorded "Rum and Coca-Cola" on October 18, 1944 for Decca Records - Lord Invader's old label. When it hit the airwaves a few weeks later, the guardians of the nation's morals were horrified. Not only did the song give free advertising to an alcoholic drink, but it also projected a most unheroic image of America's fighting forces. After all, the boys were supposed to be out on the beaches looking for Nazi U-boats, not making "tropic love"! In response the four radio networks got together and banned the song - no airplay, not even any advertising. [17]


This verdict would have meant instant oblivion for most songs, but this was no ordinary song.
It was about to sweep the U.S. just as it had swept Trinidad two years earlier. On January 17, 1945, Leo Feist Inc. took a full page ad in Variety to herald the success of the song.  Estimates of the sales of "Rum and Coca-Cola" (just counting the Andrews Sisters’ recording) go as high as seven million, but this is surely an exaggeration. The figure mentioned in Variety - 2.5 million - is probably very close to the true number. What is beyond dispute, however, is that in the winter of '45 "Rum and Coca-Cola" was a songwriter's fantasy - far and away the most popular song in the land. On Billboard magazine's chart it was #1 for ten straight weeks and it topped Variety's chart for eight weeks. Later, a group called Record Research, Inc, using Billboard's data, named "Rum and Coca-Cola" the #1 most popular song in the country for calendar year 1945. (See “The Importance of the Song” on this site.) [18]


As Morey Amsterdam watched his royalty account grow, people were naturally curious about the comedian who had copyrighted "Rum and Coca-Cola".  How did a man with little or no song writing background suddenly come up with a hit song in a foreign idiom? Morey was amazingly unguarded in answering this question. In one interview he was quoted as saying that he had "picked up" the song in the West Indies. Time magazine announced that he had "imported" the song. Then there was the following account in the New York newspaper PM:



"Amsterdam said he . . . was on a recent theatrical

trip in the West Indies. Once he heard some native

musicians singing a song with a catchy chorus . . .

He bought the rights of the tune, he said, and

supplied his own lyrics . . . Later Amsterdam said

he expected to make about $60,000 on the song."  [19]



The only way to interpret the breeziness of false statements like this is that Mr. Amsterdam, up to this point, was truly confused about the origins of the song. In his ignorance and lack of concern he felt free to make up any story he wanted. (Later, in court, he would disavow all these statements, saying he was misquoted.) When he was in Trinidad "Rum and Coca-Cola" was like a virus, spreading and mutating everywhere. He may have felt that the song was in the public domain. And if there was a single author behind it, how could that person prove his prior authorship?
Well, whatever Morey was thinking there was one thing he had overlooked: the "Souvenir Collection". If Amsterdam had seen that booklet while in Trinidad - or if the booklet never existed - things would have worked out quite differently.


In mid-January, 1945, around the time the song hit the charts in the U.S., a correspondent for Time magazine in Trinidad broke the incredible news about "Rum and Coca-Cola" to the man who had written it. Lord Invader's life would never be the same. [20]


***



Unfortunately history has not left us with an account of Invader meeting with Mohamed Khan to share the news. But whatever strain these events might have placed on their relationship, they both realized they needed each other to bring any kind of legal action. Invader had written the song but had no copyright; Khan - maybe -  had the copyright (on the lyrics) but not a written assignment from the author. They decided that Invader should proceed to New York immediately and that Khan would follow as soon as his schedule permitted.


Invader was able to get a seat on a Pan Am clipper leaving Port of Spain on February 23rd and he arrived in New York the following day to great fanfare - the press (especially the African-American press) was eager to interview him and take his photograph in the terminal at LaGuardia Field.


The advance notice of his arrival was probably the work of Invader's traveling companion, a Trinidadian businessman named Cedric Espinet, whom Invader had designated his "manager". Although Espinet had never been to the United States, he had promoted sporting events in Trinidad and probably had contacts in New York. In exchange for lending his advice and support, he was to receive a share (later formalized as 5%) of any monies coming to Invader in a settlement, in or out of court. (Later, another Trinidadian, Cecil Voisin, joined them in New York and became a "co-manager" with Espinet.)


In going through the formalities of customs and immigration Invader listed his occupation as "artist" which apparently was too vague for the immigration officials. They wanted to know what kind of an artist he was. After some discussion the word "artist" was crossed out and overstruck with "songwriter". (For more on this see "Arrivals" on this site.) [21]


Mohamed Khan arrived in New York in March and by that time Invader, probably acting on the advice of Voisin and Espinet,  had retained the services of an attorney named Emil K. Ellis who was known in his field as an able defender of intellectual property. They all got together to decide who was going to get what in the event of a settlement and this is the way they split it up: Ellis a standard 33 1/3%, Invader 44 2/3%, Khan 12%, Voisin and Espinet 10%. Also at this time Invader finally and formally signed over his "right, title, and interest" to “Rum and Coca-Cola" to Mr. Khan. Their gentlemen's agreement was now a legal instrument.


At this stage in the case all signs pointed to a quick, out-of-court settlement in the neighborhood of $100,000 - which would be equivalent to $1.2M in 2010. With that amount of money changing hands, both sides would have been able to leave something on the table. But it was not to be. Exactly why the two sides failed to settle will never be fully known, but a key contributing factor was the emergence of a third party - the Trinidadian band leader Lionel Belasco (c.1882 -1967). Belasco was also claiming that "Rum and Coca-Cola" infringed on his copyright.


Belasco was a trained pianist who came to New York from Trinidad around 1915. After a while he realized that he could take the traditional melodies of his youth, from Trinidad and other islands, standardize them, arrange them, and copyright them in the U.S. as his own original work. He proceeded to obtain hundreds of copyrights this way, although some of them may have been his own compositions.


Most of the copyrights were of little value - in fact Belasco complained about the burden and the cost of the registration process, but one of them turned out to be a gold mine. It was an adaptation of a folk song from the island of Martinique called, "L'Année Passée" ("Last Year") which used a melody, taking into account the first four bars only, which was nearly identical to the melody which Invader used in "Rum and Coca-Cola". (For a side-by-side comparison, go to "The Testimony of Leighla Whipper" on this site.)


The truth was that both songs used a public domain melody which was shared by many others in Trinidad, most notably King Radio in his 1936 classic, "Man Smart - Woman Smarter", but Belasco was insistent that he had composed "L'Annee Passee" - words and music - all by himself back in 1906. This was ludicrous from a number of points of view, but what made his claim actionable was that "L'Année Passée" had been published in the U.S. in December 1943 by a music publisher named Maurice Baron (no relation to Paul Baron). Furthermore the famed trial lawyer Louis Nizer agreed to represent Belasco and Baron in any future litigation.


The overlapping and competing interests of Lord Invader and Lionel Belasco is one of the fascinating sub-plots of the "Rum and Coca-Cola" story which must remain largely unexplored for lack of information. But Lord Invader must have bitterly resented Belasco's intrusion, especially given Belasco's background. He came from the middle-class, creole layer of Trinidadian society which tended to look down on the likes of Invader who was purely African in his heritage.


Anyway - after Ellis, Nizer and their clients hashed it out they decided that there would be two suits - Khan would sue Feist based on the words of the song, and Maurice Baron, the publisher of "L'Année Passée", would proceed based on the music only. [22]


***


"Khan vs. Feist" came first. It was heard in U.S. District Court in New York City between December 9th and December 13th, 1946. The presiding judge was named Mortimer Byers. As in most copyright cases there was no jury; it would take a legal expert like Judge Byers to unravel all the technicalities.


Emil Ellis began by calling his client, Mohamed Khan, to the witness stand. As Mr. Khan reached the stand the judge may have found himself sitting up a little straighter in his chair. The man approaching him was no rustic islander with sand between his toes, but a debonair businessman who had promoted circus acts, vaudeville shows, and prize fights on three continents.  Mohamed Khan was probably the best dressed man in the courtroom (he wore double-breasted suits even in Trinidad) and, if points are given for a British accent, the best spoken.


In laying out the story about the composition of the song and publication of the booklet, the plaintiff was careful to correct any possible impression in the judge's mind that calypso was too primitive and parochial an art form to be afforded the protection of copyright laws. For instance Khan went to great lengths to point out that a calypso "tent" was actually a legitimate concert hall, operating under a license, and charging admission. Here Khan describes the sort of people who patronized his establishment:


      "The attendance at my tent comprised all classes, the        

       majority of which is the cream of society . . . Mrs.     

       Anthony Eden, I had the honor to usher her to her seat;     

       George Raft, the noted Hollywood star, I had the pleasure of 

       escorting him to a seat in my Calypso tent. Sir Noel Coward,   

       famous writer, visited my Calypso tent.  Humphrey Bogart,

       famous Hollywood star, visited my tent." [23]



The next witness, Rupert Westmore Grant, began his testimony by dissolving any mystery about his stage name:


Q."Is there any custom in Trinidad whereby Calypso singers give themselves names, such as you did - 'Lord Invader'?"

A."Oh, yes, we have the Royal Lion, the Growling Tiger . . . "

Q."Is there a singer by the name of Radio?"

A."Radio, Lord Kitchener, Hitler. We have the Young Pretender, Great McCassey, Attila the Hun. Many others." [24]


After running through some of his professional accomplishments, Invader went on to tell a story, which, it is safe to assume, he had rehearsed many times under the tutelage of Mr. Ellis - the story of his composition of "Rum and Coca-Cola", the midnight meeting where he sang it for Khan, and how the two of them came to an agreement about including the song in the booklet.


In his cross examination of Khan and Invader there was little the defense attorney, Julian Abeles, could do to refute their testimony. It soon became clear that Feist's only defense rested on technical grounds: 1. that "Rum and Coca-Cola" was "inherently lewd, immoral, and salacious" and, as such uncopyrightable; 2. that Calypso music was "folklore" and, as such, uncopyrightable; 3. that Khan had obtained his copyright improperly be not getting a written assignment from Invader. Abeles was, in effect, putting calypso on trial.


Emil Ellis next put on the stand five members of the American armed forces who had been stationed in Trinidad during the War. One by one they emphatically supported Invader on every point at issue. Between the lines of their testimony was an obvious nostalgia for Trinidad and the Trinidadian people. For instance this exchange:


Q."Will you name the places you heard it [“Rum and Coca-Cola”] sung, other than at the navy base?"

A."Well, I heard it in Port of Spain."

Q."Where in Port of Spain?"

A."Well, quite a number of places. We had a very favorite hangout, the marines seemed to be attached to, known as Kimling's, a restaurant, and the boys would sit in there and have a few rum and Cokes, and sing songs. They had waitresses in the place would sing with us." [25]


That was basically it for the plaintiff's case - Khan, Invader, and the five soldiers. Of course they had the legal weight of that little booklet on their side of the scales. (The booklet had been introduced as "Exhibit A".)


On the third day of the trial Morey Amsterdam took the stand in his own defense. It was the moment everyone in the courtroom was waiting for. In his direct testimony Morey implied that the similarity between his song and Lord Invader's was the result of a miraculous coincidence! No, he had never heard anyone singing, "Rum and Coca-Cola - Go down Point Cumana" while he was in Trinidad. No, he never saw Mohamed Khan's booklet.


Mr. Amsterdam's cross examination proved to be one of the most trying performances of his life. It filled fifty pages of text in the transcript. In addition to the basic implausibility of his story, there were numerous discrepancies between the statements in his pre-trial deposition and his testimony in court. Morey, it seemed, could not remember what he had told to whom and when. Ellis hammered him relentlessly on these flip-flops: who had supplied the title of the song? Who had checked out the rights to the song? Why had he excluded the arranger, Paul Baron, from the original credits? Morey was in such distress at one point the he pleaded, "You ask me what happened yesterday and I could not tell you. My memory is devoted mostly to the material and jokes and things I tell on the air." [26]


Ellis had him on the ropes. Now he moved in to finish him off:


Q."Can you explain how it came about that the first three lines of the first verse of the song as you rendered it in Trinidad happened to be exactly the same as the first three lines of the verse in the book, the "Souvenir Collection"?

A. "No, sir, I cannot."

Q."It is a rather startling coincidence, isn't it?"

A."But it is not the first time it has happened."

Q."But I say, it is a startling coincidence."

A."Yes." [27]

A little later:


Q."Would it surprise you to learn that there was in existence since March, 1943, a book published in Trinidad containing the words of the chorus as I have read them to you in exactly the same form as you say you composed it in September, 1943?"

A."Yes, sir. The first time I saw that book was in Mr. Abeles' office."

Q."And that is also a rather startling coincidence to you, isn't it?"

A."Yes, sir." [28]


That was "Khan vs. Feist" in a nutshell - there was just no getting around that little booklet except to call it a "startling coincidence". The trial lasted two more days but the drama had gone out of it.


***


On February 27, 1947 - four years to the week after the printing of the Souvenir Collection, the honorable Mortimer Byers announced his decision in favor of the plaintiff, Mohamed H. Khan. The decision was, of course, appealed but to no avail. A year later Feist also lost the case which had been brought by Lionel Belasco and Maurice Baron.


In his twenty page opinion judge Byers wasted little time in dismissing the "lewd, immoral, and salacious" argument and the "folklore" argument. The "improper copyright" argument was more complex but it was basically handled this way: Yes, said the judge, Khan erred in not getting a written assignment from Invader, but this error left him vulnerable only to a complaint from Invader, not from a third party. As long as the two of them stuck together, Feist could not infringe on Khan's copyright.


As for Morey Amsterdam the judge had this to say:


"The most that can be said for Amsterdam is that, when he visited Trinidad in September of 1943 in his capacity as a public entertainer, he found the song in current and widespread use, and therefore deemed himself at liberty to appropriate it to his own repertory . . . If he had frankly avowed the true situation upon the witness stand, his testimony would have been more convincing than it turned out to be." [29]


Despite this chastisement from the judge, Morey Amsterdam chose to stick to his mendacious fantasy for the rest of his life, claiming that the whole affair was based on a "coincidental thing". Moreover, as part of the settlement the defendants decided to buy the "Rum and Coca-Cola" copyright from Mohamed Khan and Maurice Baron. Thus, Morey Amsterdam is listed with ASCAP today as the author of the song, along with Paul Baron and Jeri Sullavan. [30


Any discussion of the settlement quickly leads to the question - how much money did Invader get for his troubles? Unhappily, this author cannot report the exact amount - the details of the financial settlement were worked out in deep secrecy and they are not part of the official record. The two big imponderables are the dollar amount of the intangible “damages” which the plaintiffs agreed to pay and the price put on the copyright. What is known through documentary evidence is that all parties in both cases, "Khan vs. Feist" and "Baron vs. Feist", signed legal papers on February 27, 1950 indicating that a settlement had been reached and both actions were dismissed by the court on March 10, 1950. To view these documents, go to the "DOCUMENTS" page on this site. [31]


The sum most often associated with Lord Invader's share of the settlement is $150,000 but this is based on a rumor picked up in Trinidad and printed in the Afro American (Baltimore) on July 10, 1948, p.6. The article began as follows:


PORT-of-SPAIN, TRINIDAD -- Rupert Grant, the Calypso singer known as "Lord Invader",

collected, through his New York lawyer, $150,000 awarded him for recrodings [sic] of his

song hit, "Rum and Coca Cola" by the Andrews Sisters . .


The idea that Lord Invader received a monetary award in 1948 cannot be true. It is completely out of agreement with the timeline of the courtroom actions. It also appears to have ignored a host of other factors, not least of which was Lord Invader's tax liability in the U.S. Based on a thorough review of all the available legal documents and a conversation with one of the key participants, the true amount of money which Lord Invader received was probably around $30,000 after taxes. According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor $30,000 in 1950 would be the equivalent of $291,000 in 2013. For much more on the settlement and its aftermath go to "The Settlement" on this site.


Whatever the amount was, it is clear from contemporary accounts that Invader spent the money quickly while going on a spending spree in Trinidad in the first part of 1950. After that his finances were in desperate shape. He lived the life of a typical calypsonian, probably in a cash-only economy.  In each new venue the audience demanded that Lord Invader sing his famous song. Invader presumably complied, but with a heavy heart. At that point he didn't even own the rights to it. In theory every time he sang "Rum and Coca-Cola" in front of a paying audience, Morey Amsterdam collected a fee. [32]


Lord Invader died in New York City on October 15, 1961 after a brief illness. [33]


    ***


In 1973 MCA Records (MCA had bought out Decca) released a double album of the Andrews Sisters' greatest hits. On side one, band four is the greatest of their greatest, "Rum and Coca-Cola". One wishes that the singing group had still been together at that point to add one more verse. It would have gone like this:


"When Morey sang at the USO,

The soldiers really loved the show.

But when he stole Invader's song,

The Yankee judge say he was wrong."


Drinkin' rum and Coca-Cola . . ."



*            *            *


Notes:

[1] The 1919 date was provided by Mr. Philip F. Mooney, the Coca-Cola archivist, in personal correspondence with the author. For background about the Coca-Cola franchise in Trinidad see the company publication "Coca-Cola Overseas", December 1952. The statistic on troop levels is taken from an unpublished manuscript, "History of the Trinidad Sector and Base Command" by Lt. Robert A. Johnston and Capt. James C. Shoultz, Jr. (1947) which the author consulted at the Center for Military History in Washington, D.C. For a general history of U.S. Forces in the Caribbean see Stetson Conn, "Guarding the United States and its Outposts" (1964). The Conn book is available online at: www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/Guard-US/index.htm. The sales figures for Coca-Cola were given to the author over the telephone in 1983 by J.M. ("Maurice") Quesnel, at that time a director of Neal & Massy Holdings Limited. In the 1940's Mr. Quesnel worked for Canning & Company, the Coca-Cola bottler in Trinidad. The Coca-Cola "studies" are mentioned in "RUM AND COCA-COLA, The Murky Derivations of a Sweet Drink and a Sassy World War II Song" by Wayne Curtis in The American Scholar, summer 2006, pp.64-70. The Curtis article, although taken from secondary sources, gives a nice overview of the association between Coca-Cola and the U.S. military.


[2] This social interaction is nicely captured in its innocence in the following article in the Trinidad Guardian, September 10, 1942:


"MONOS PARTY ON SUNDAY - The girls who are going to Monos Island for the all-day party on Sunday are reminded that they must be at the USO club before 10 A.M. where Army trucks will be waiting to carry them to the boat. Slacks or shorts may be worn for the out-trip, but the hostesses request that the girls take a short dress for the dance in the evening as they did for the Green Hill entertainment, also bring along a plate and a fork. There will be swimming, lunch, and dancing with dinner in between, and the men are looking forward to entertaining the girls so don't disappoint them."


(Monos Island, it so happens, is “Mona’s Isle” in the parlance of Morey Amsterdam.)


[3] For an excellent overview of Invader's career see John Cowley's introduction to the compilation album, "God Made Us All - Lord Invader: The Asch Recordings". According to Cowley, Invader recorded for Decca in Trinidad in 1939 and again in 1940. In 1941 Invader came to New York for the first time and recorded for Decca there.


[3] This is the wording, with slight alterations, as it appeared in the original 1943 "Souvenir Collection", printed in Trinidad.


[4] The "three times a night" quote is from the "Khan vs. Feist" trial transcript, p. 81.


[5] The "two hundred soldiers a night" quote is from the "Khan vs Feist" transcript, p. 333

Here is a scan of page ten of the booklet:



[6] Time magazine, January 29, 1945


[7] See the Trinidad Guardian, October 9, 1943, p.2 . The troupe also included dancer/contortionist Marilyn Marsh, accordionist Ralph Hark, and the singing team of Doraine & Ellis.


[8] "Khan vs. Feist" trial transcript, p.218


[9] see "Amsterdam interview" on this site, part 3. The example is from the sheet music published by Leo Feist, Inc. in 1944.


[10] A sketchy itinerary is given in the "Khan vs. Feist" trial transcript, p.217. Mr. Amsterdam said he was in Trinidad for about three weeks, then went to the "Dutch West Indies" for about a week and then returned to Trinidad for two or three days. In the "Amsterdam Interview" on this site Mr. Amsterdam claims that his troupe also traveled to "Africa, India, and China" but this is most likely a fabrication on his part.


[11] Mabel Todd (nee Mabel Doss) and Morey Amsterdam were married in September, 1935 and their divorce was finalized in Las Vegas on December 13, 1945. See Los Angeles Times, December 14, 1945, p. 9. Mr. Amsterdam remarried soon thereafter and for the rest of his life went to great lengths to draw attention away from his first marriage.


[12] There are (at least) three versions of how Morey Amsterdam met Jeri Sullavan. In a court filing Mr. Amsterdam said the two of them were together on a beach outing in Long Island. In an interview with the author (see "Amsterdam Interview" on this site) he said it was in the course of doing a benefit show in New Jersey. A third version, told to the author by an acquaintance of Ms. Sullavan's, has Morey and Jeri sharing a taxi in Manhattan. Morey was humming the tune of "Rum and Coca-Cola" and Jeri asked him what he was humming.


[13] see "Amsterdam interview" on this site, part 4.


[14] This is the version of the first verse and chorus which Amsterdam sent to the U.S. Copyright Office on September 27, 1944. It was introduced as "plaintiff's exhibit 8" in the "Khan vs. Feist" trial.


[15] See Jeri Sullavan’s deposition. The entire deposition was read into the "Baron vs. Feist" trial transcript pp.940-947


[16] According to testimony in "Khan vs. Feist" the negotiations with Coca-Cola were conducted between Harry Link, general professional manager of Leo Feist, Inc. and a public relations agent named Joe Copps, who worked on the Coca-Cola account. Copps obviously acted as a go-between for Link and the highest levels of the company. Link said he first contacted Coca-Cola in early August, 1944 but did not receive permission to market the song until "late October". This time lag suggests that there may have been a lot of back and forth. Mr. Link may have used the Andrews Sisters, with their wholesome reputation, as leverage to get the go-ahead. This is complete speculation. See "Khan vs. Feist" trial transcript, pp. 283, 301.


[17] Variety, 1/17/45. In the 1940’s almost all airplay in the U. S. was controlled by the “big four” - Columbia (CBS), NBC, Mutual, and the Blue network.


[18] For sales figures see Variety, December 25, 1946 p.35. For Billboard statistics see, Joel Whitburn, "Pop Hits - Singles & Albums 1940-1954" (2002) p.308. See also "importance of the song" on this site.


[19] PM, March 1, 1945, p.17


[20] "Khan vs. Feist" trial transcript, p.95  Time ran a story about Invader on January 29, 1945.


[21] Ellis's retainer and Invader's contractual arrangement with Khan, Voisin, and Espinet were entered into the public record by the defendants as exhibits J and K. The exhibits were reprinted in the "Khan vs. Feist" trial transcript pp. 395 & 396. How these documents came to be in the possession of the defendants is explained in "Invader at the Brill" on this site. For Invader's arrival in New York see the Afro-American (Baltimore), March 10, 1945, p.1. The date of Invader's arrival in New York and the confusion about the use of the word "artist" are contained in Invader's immigration forms which are available online through Ancestry.com. For more on this see "Arrivals" on this site.


[22] Julian Abeles, the attorney for the defendants in the "Khan vs. Feist" trial, stated (transcript p.269) that there were five claims of infringement made against Amsterdam's "Rum and Coca-Cola" - two based on the melody and three based on the words. In addition to the claims of Invader and Belasco there was a claim made by a friend and colleague of Invader's named Norman Span, known professionally as "King Radio". His song, "Man Smart - Woman Smarter", which was recorded by Decca in 1936, used a melody similar to "Rum and Coca-Cola". King Radio's complaint was settled without going to trial. It is not known who lodged the other two claims. (Or, Abeles may have been exaggerating.) For details on King Radio's complaint see "Baron vs. Feist" trial transcript, p.679.


[23] "Khan vs. Feist" trial transcript p.333.


In listing his celebrity patrons Khan appears to have been exaggerating slightly, as enumerated below:

1.  According to a book called Port of Spain in a World at War (1983) by Michael Anthony (page 187), Noel Coward  made a quick trip to Port of Spain to boost morale in January, 1944 "dressed in the uniform of an American soldier".

2. Humphrey Bogart was widely reported in Trinidad in the late 1930's as he attended the opening of a new movie theater, the Deluxe Cinema. It is possible that Khan was conflating his calypso tent with the movie theaters he managed.

3. George Raft, it seems, arrived in Trinidad under less than flattering circumstances during the calypso tent season of 1944. Raft had embarked on a USO tour of Italy and North Africa in the winter of '44 but when he arrived in Italy he had a falling out with his U.S. Army hosts. The USO canceled his tour after three shows and shipped him back to the States, probably via Trinidad. See "The George Raft File" by James Robert Parish, New York, 1973 p.121. There was also a story in Los Angeles Times, March 18, 1944, p.A3 about Raft and the USO.

4. Mrs. Anthony Eden, the former Beatrice Beckett, was widely reported to be on holiday in the Caribbean in the winter of 1946. See The Times (London) February 21, 1946, p. 3. Mrs. Eden returned to Trinidad in January, 1947, with her husband and son, and may well have attended calypso shows then.


The above timetables suggest that Khan was telling the truth about Raft, Coward and Eden, and fibbing about Bogart.



[24] "Khan vs. Feist" trial transcript, p. 77.  The passage quoted here shows the difficult job of the court stenographer in figuring out exactly how to spell on the fly some of the names and terms which the Trinidadians were using. "Royal" Lion is, of course, "Roaring" Lion. "Great McCassey" may also be a misnomer.


[25] "Khan vs. Feist" trial transcript p.137. The names of the soldiers were Jack Hageny, Oscar Gottlieb, Ira Mermer, Seamus Nunan, and Peter Tofte. The quotation here is from Ira Mermer.


[26] "Khan vs. Feist trial transcript p. 261


[27] "Khan vs. Feist" p. 241


[28] "Khan vs. Feist" p. 274


[29] "Khan vs. Feist" pp. 430-431


[30] See the "Amsterdam interview" on this site, part 4.


[31] The dates are on the original docket sheets at the National Archives and Records Administration, Northeast Region. For more on the settlement see "The Settlement" on this site.


[32]  See John Cowley's introduction to the compilation album, "God Made Us All - Lord Invader: The Asch Recordings", p.7. See also Daniel J. Crowley "Toward a Definition of Calypso", Ethnomusicology, May, 1959, p.64


[33] Invader's obituary appeared in the New York Times, October 18, 1961, p.43

 

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