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The much-loved ‘Arima Kid’ launched many local careers
You may still hear his voice every morning on I95.5FM during a short feature called Toute Bagai. But long before this show, Holly Betaudier—the Arima Kid, Holly B or Uncle Holly—was a giant of T&T culture. For decades, the folklore fan promoted local music and talent.
He was an influential advocate for keeping traditional parang alive with his Holly B Parang Bandwagon that was active up to 2010. Over the past 45 years, Betaudier hosted the late parang queen Daisy Voisin and her band La Divina Pastora Serenaders, the Carib Santa Rosa parang side of Arima, the San Jose Serenaders of St Joseph, and many other bands.
At 90 years of age, he’s now unable to do as much as before, but according to his wife Valerie, Betaudier is still very much the witty and charming man she has always known.
The couple still go to the gym three times a week. Betaudier enjoys outings and spending time with the family, says Valerie.
“He is just contented with his life at present,” she says.
From security guard
Betaudier’s career in media began in August 1946 as an announcer with the American army base. He worked for the US Armed Forces radio service network WVDI.
In a past television interview, Betaudier said he became attracted to media and particularly radio after discovering a comic book feature called Little Orphan Annie. According to Betaudier, Annie got lost in a New York city subway station and was found by someone who took her to a radio station.
“The host did such a great description of her that she was immediately found,” said Betaudier.
“At this point, I got fascinated with radio. To think that in one state in America, in one little studio, one little missing girl could be found and all of America knew about her and discovered her and brought her back to her family. I thought this was marvellous.”
But Betaudier never thought he would have a long media career. The former security guard-turned-radio announcer also found himself in television in 1962. In that year, when T&T gained its independence, the T&T Television (TTT) station was launched. Betaudier helped pioneer local cultural and entertainment programmes much loved by audiences, especially the popular talent show Scouting for Talent. Scouting helped launch the careers of many entertainers and became a platform for local culture.
Scouting for Talent
Morris Theophille entered the Scouting for Talent show in the late 70s at the age of 35 and won the 1982 finals, singing a rendition of That Lucky Old Sun, written by American composer James Gillespie. After his win, he appeared regularly on the show as a guest performer. In a telephone interview with Theophille, he said being on the show gave him great exposure: “I still get gigs up to today from that show.”
He remembers Betaudier being very encouraging when he first entered the competition.
“What Holly Betaudier did for local entertainment and entertainers was great. It is because of him that many of us even have a name now.”
Theophille noted that local shows like Scouting for Talent, The Aunty Kay Show and Twelve and Under with the late Hazel Ward-Redman, are missing now in television programming.
“It would be nice to see shows like those again, which can really serve as a platform for young people,” said Theophille.
Another Scouting for Talent performer was calypsonian Errol Asche, who made seven finals in the competition.
Asche, the father of former calypso monarch winner Karene Asche, started performing on Scouting For Talent while still attending San Juan Secondary School. He quickly grew as a favourite on the show. He, too, credits Scouting for Talent for launching his singing career. After the show he went on to sing professionally, releasing his first official song in 1979, Hot Soca.
“The show really did a lot for me, in every aspect. I got a lot of gigs after that because the show really highlighted me. Scouting for Talent was a launch pad for upcoming stars. Right now, young people have to pay so much money to record a song and most of them do not have that type of money. Talent shows like Scouting helped a lot of young people get discovered,” said Asche.
He mentioned Francis Prime, Tobago singer Philmore King, comedian Tommy Joseph and veteran radio personality Sharon Pitt—they all competed on the popular show.
T&T’s acclaimed soul and gospel recording artiste, Carol Addison, also shared memories of being on the show. Speaking to the Guardian from her New York home, Addison, who entered the competition in 1965, won one final and placed second in another. She described her Scouting for Talent experience as the beginning of her professional singing career.
“This gave me national exposure. It placed me on a national stage and in many ways legitimised and opened all the doors for me, because at that time Scouting for Talent was THE show for anyone aspiring to become a professional. Once you made it there, it was like you were qualified to step out, because you were of that standard,” explained the Tunapuna native.
She said had it not been for Betaudier, she would not be where she is today.
“He launched my career. Looking back now, I have to believe that God placed him in my life because I realise how important he was…He was the catalyst.
“Thank you, Holly B. I am eternally grateful to you, and I wish you all the best.”
Scouting for Talent memories
The T&T Guardian asked Facebook users to post their fondest memories of Scouting For Talent, and this is what some had to say:
• “The giveaway segments were always unintentionally hilarious. I remember people grabbing for things like a pack of Crix as if it was something priceless.” —Guardian business editor Suzanne Sheppard
• “The whistling man who entered every year.” —Acacia-Victoria de Verteuil
• “Watching Dale Gulston’s theatrics while playing pan. Wondering why my aunt’s friend sang the same song whenever she competed. Wondering why the Unit Trust Tree couldn’t give cash instead of shares (as a child, cash seemed more important than shares).” —Crystal Holder
• “Uncle Holly always having the broadest smile.” —Gigi M Mitchell
• “Wondering who else is going to sing Green Green Grass of Home or Many Rivers to Cross. LOL!” —Comedian Clifford Learmond
• “Dane Gulston, Debra Bernard and a man trying to sing Let’s Get It On switching between normal voice and falsetto. He was hilarious.” —Cathyan Townsend
• “The clapping when someone hit a note.” —Robert Solomon
• “The two guys who buss during their duet of Suddenly. One was real off-key, and he partner just watch him and walk off the stage...lololololololool. And the way everyone said scattered ‘pictears’ instead of pictures in the Memories segment of the show.” —Laura Dowrich-Phillips
• “I won a motorbike on Scouting for Talent many moons ago. One day I will tell that story. It is not a pretty one.” —Child rights activist Hazel Thompson-Ahye
• “A man with one arm singing: Every Time You Go Away, You Take a Piece of Me with You. Priceless!” —Peter Quammie.