Today we pause to celebrate the birthday of Antigua and Barbuda’s longest-standing and perhaps by far, most successful calypsonians King Short Shirt, whose real name is Sir MacLean Emanuel
He was born in St Johns Antigua in 1942
Early indications of a successful musical career manifested themselves in regular appearances in backyard shows and ‘breaking up’ concerts at the Spring Gardens Moravian School.
On the invitation of a friend who knew of his talent, Emanuel traveled to St. Thomas after leaving school in Antigua.
There, he landed a day job as a construction worker and a small singing gig at a local bar in the evenings.
He returned to Antigua in 1962 and entered his first calypso competition.
The following year he finished as second runner-up with his renditions of “Shakespearean” and “Straight Hair”.
He also had his first hit single with “Parasites”. In 1964he won with “No Place Like Home” and “Heritage”.
Successive wins were secured in 1965 and 1966, then again in 1969 and 1970. In all, he won 15 titles between 1964 and 1992 – his last year of competition – including six wins during his “decade of victory” from 1970 to 1979; No calypsonian before or since has accomplished as much.
In the 1980s he opened his “Shorty’s Bar-B-Q” bar/restaurant in Halcyon Bay. His 1987 wedding to Esther Barnes was reportedly the most elaborate wedding in the history of the island.
In 1997, he converted to Christianity. Since his conversion, Brother Emanuel (as he is now known) has largely produced gospel material.
He announced his retirement from competition in 2012 on his 70th birthday. He came out of retirement briefly in 2013 to perform in the local calypso competition, but withdrew before the quarter-finals to “give the other guys a chance”. He continued to record new material.
In 2014 he received a knighthood from the government of Antigua and Barbuda for his contributions to the promotion of calypso.
In July 2015 he was hospitalised after suffering breathing problems and chest pains; He was diagnosed with blocked arteries and was unable to attend the 2015 carnival.
King Short Shirt was the subject of Dr. James Edwin Knight’s documentary King Short Shirt: The Making of the Monarch.