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February 15, 2018

Sorry but the Rum and Coca-Cola Reader will be out of commission for awhile. The above links are not active.

The problem is this: when I put up the site in 2009 I used a quickie web authoring program whose code is no longer supported in some key areas like video and sound files. The new site, which will be ready soon, will be a big improvement.

In the meantime I will give you a quick rundown on the history of Lord invader's famous song. "Rum and Coca-Cola"was composed in late 1942 by Rupert W. Grant (Lord Invader) and sung to great acclaim in the Victory calypso tent in Trinidad in early 1943. The lyrics of the song were printed in a booklet prepared by the manager of the tent, Mohamed Khan. Khan also copyrighted the booklet in his own name.

In September, 1943 a radio comedian named Morey Amsterdam visited Trinidad on a USO tour and heard the song being sung by the U.S. soldiers stationed there. The following year, back in New York, Amsterdam told a young singer named Jeri Sullavan about the song and she, along with her arranger Paul Baron, put together a version of the song styled for a North American audience. The first U.S. performance of the song took place on June 13, 1944 at a nightclub in New York.

Suddenly awakened to the commercial potential of the song, Morey Amsterdam copyrighted the song on September 27, 1944 and then, in a double-cross of Jeri Sullavan, offered it to the Andrews Sisters. They recorded the song on October 18, 1944 for Decca Records.

"Rum and Coca-Cola" broke into VARIETY magazine's top ten chart on January 17, 1945 and quickly went right to the top. In all it spent eight weeks at the #1 position. On BILLBOARD magazine's chart it spent ten weeks at #1. Later, a group called Record Research Inc. named "Rum and Coca-Cola"the #1 most popular song in the country for 1945. BILLBOARD reported on March 8, 1947 that sales of the 78 rpm record "may have climbed above three million.”

Lord Invader found out about the piracy of his song soon after it hit the charts in the U.S. He promptly flew to New York, hired an attorney, and sued for copyright infringement. The suit was actually brought in the name of Mohamed Khan, who had the copyright on the booklet.

The case was heard in Federal District Court in New York City in December, 1946. The case was decided in Khan's (Invader's) favor and the verdict was upheld on appeal. What followed was a protracted and difficult process of putting a price tag on Amsterdam's infringement, a process made even more complicated by the emergence of another Trinidadian, Lionel Belasco, who also claimed copyright on the song. (Too confusing to go into here!) What is known is that the process was finally concluded by private treaty (i.e. an out of court settlement)in March, 1950.

After sifting through all available documents and speaking to one of the key participants I have estimated that Invader's share of the recovery was around $30,000 which would be the equivalent of $316,500 today. The settlement also included a buyout of Khan's and Belasco's copyright so today Morey Amsterdam, Jeri Sullavan, and Paul Baron are listed as the authors of the song.

If you have any questions don't hesitate to get in touch with me - kburke9@mac.com.

Thanks,
Kevin Burke
Cambridge, Massachusetts