(Shadrock) Nicky Porter through the Eyes of Ivor Lynch
Ivor Lynch is a Guyanese Native who currently resides and works in New York city. He is the Creator and Administrator of guyanamusicshowcase.com, an online outlet for the purchase of a wide selection of Guyanese music, including but not exclusive to traditional folk songs, Soul, Orchestral, Big Band, Reggae and Calypso. He is also one of Nicky Porter’s longest standing friends. Before we discover how Ivor sees Nicky, we will get a little insight into Ivor himself. Ivor Lynch is a Guyanese artist, who initially found success in Guyana, Suriname, Holland and throughout the Caribbean in the 60’s and 70’s, with songs such as his first hit, 1968’s ‘There’s no Tomorrow’ and 1979’s ‘Unlimited’.
In 1981, a teary eyed Ivor reluctantly left his beloved Guyana behind in order to be reunited with his wife’s family, (whom had previously migrated and settle in N.Y.)to seek out new horizons in the land of opportunity. New York became Ivor and his family’s second home, but his heart has remained in Guyana, where he returns as often as he can to visit.
Once in New York, Ivor quickly discovered that the Black community, though appearing united externally, was in fact quite divided. Jamaicans stuck with Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Haitians, and all other Caribbean emigrants, kept to their own communities, which made it difficult for Ivor to continue his musical career. He was a star back home, but here in the U.S., he was just another man struggling to achieve the American Dream. In 1981, Ivor cut an album but found that the Caribbean radio station in N.Y. at the time called WIB, played mainly Jamaican and Trinidadian artists. The Guyanese community in N.Y. was very small at the time and not well organized and established in the broadcasting and music industry, which left Ivor working doubly hard to find an outlet for his music to be heard. He continued to perform solo, as well as with other Guyanese artists, and to actively build his musical career internationally until 1995 when he fell ill, having to endure 20 months of dialysis and a kidney transplant.
It was during his convalescence that Ivor conceptualized The Guyana Music Showcase website, which launched officially in 1999. Over the years, Ivor has been able to convert many old recordings and hard to find Guyanese music into a digital form, all the while maintaining a day job. Today, Ivor continues to juggle his daily life with his love of Guyanese music and artistes and is regularly contacted from as far away as Australia, Sweden Rome and Holland by fans of his, and of other Guyanese artists. Although, Ivor no longer performs to put bread on the table, he does give his friends and fans a treat from time to time by performing for the pure joy of it.
Now that we are familiar with whom Ivor Lynch is, we can dive into the subject of who Nicky Porter is, through the eyes of his long standing friend Ivor Lynch. Here is some of what Ivor shared about his friendship with Nicky, which Ivor says, ‘goes further back than he can even remember’. Ivor and Nicky came up together in the small Nation known as British Guyana, having gained independence in 1966, and became known as Guyana, it is commonly mistaken as a Caribbean Island. However, Guyana is not an island it is a South American Country which is tied through social, economical, cultural and political association with the countries of the Caribbean.
Those of us old enough to remember, may be familiar with ‘Guyana and the Caribbean Islands’, which was changed to just ‘Caribbean’ after extensive lobbying by other countries who felt that Guyana was receiving unfair advantages internationally due to ‘Guyana’ preceding further than the Caribbean Islands’. People from the Caribbean are a proud people and did not take kindly to the idea of playing second fiddle to Guyana, if even only in name. According to Ivor, himself and Nicky first met during their teenage years over a shared interest in becoming performers. They were both trying to find a way up from the mean streets of one of Guyana’s roughest neighbourhoods, Albouystown, in the city of Georgetown. From the very start they were fast friends, with an unspoken agreement that if one of them were to make it, they would reach back to pull the other up. During this era, Guyana held much promise for the two young up and coming stars, as it was a major hub on the Caribbean music scene and had been so since the 1950‘s. Artistes from all over the Caribbean came to record in Guyana, including Trinidad’s legendary “Mighty Sparrow”, who chose to go to Guyana to record one of his first releases, ‘Jean and Dina”.
As two naturally talented and highly motivated young men, Ivor and Nicky wasted no time or opportunity and spared no time for lazing about as young men tend to do. Instead, they pursued their dreams with vigour, sharing everything they learned with one another about networking, recording opportunities and gigs. Ivor’s portrayal of Nicky is that of ‘a good friend, as good a friend as someone can have’. He also describes Nicky as ‘sincere, kind, helpful, generous and competitive’. Ivor praised Nicky’s song writing skills, stating that ‘Nicky wrote from personal experiences, he wrote from real life. He did it well’. In speaking of Nicky’s ability to write from personal experience, Ivor reminisced that he and Nicky shared many experiences and adventures together. Throughout the interview process for this article, Ivor generously shared some of his memories and highlights of his friendship with Nicky.
The first story Ivor shared was about Nicky the performer, who invited Ivor to play guitar on his first record, ‘Watch a Big Man Cry’ which Nicky recorded while still in Guyana. Another memory Ivor shared was about a time when the group ‘Rudy and the Roosters lead singer decided to teach his band to appreciate him more by going on strike. When Nicky heard about the singer striking, he quickly let Ivor know that the spot was open for a fill in. Ultimately it was ‘Rudy and The Roosters” lead singer who gave in and returned to the band; in the middle of a live performance. Ivor stepped down and let the singer reunite with his band. In time Ivor became a member of his own group, ‘The Rockets’, but it was this caring and helping that fuelled the positive relationship between Ivor Lynch and Nicky Porter.
Another recollection of Ivor’s was one that speaks to the determination and strong willed aspect of Nicky’s character which Ivor described when he said that “When Nicky made up his mind to do something, he always followed through; he always finished what he started.” It also gives a clear picture of the extent of the bond between Ivor and Nicky.
According to Ivor, Nicky decided that he wanted to see his estranged father, so the two of them started the long trek from Georgetown to a small remote village in the Courantyne region. The two young men woke before the sun to make the long trek. They travelled 70 miles by boat down a river, and then by ferry into the interior of Guyana and then another 30 miles on land before they reached their destination. When they arrived Nicky had a short visit with his father before they had to turn around and make the journey back home to Georgetown as swiftly as possible so that they would not miss the last ferry back across the river, leaving them stranded over night in the interior. This trip may seem like a simple thing, but really it is much more. Nicky did not even blink at the idea of having to travel more than a hundred miles in rural Guyana, where there were not yet many roads or modern conveniences like street lights. He decided that he needed to see his father and that is exactly what he did, with his good friend Ivor by his side for the round trip. When asked why Ivor would make such a journey, which others might find unreasonable, Ivor replied that Nicky was, a…loyal guy and would do anything to help a friend, so I would do anything for him. Nicky is a true friend.” He added that “When you have Nicky as a friend, you have a friend for life”
As the years went on, Ivor travelled with his Group, ‘The Rockets’, while Nicky remained in Guyana as a solo artist, travelling less. The reason for Nicky becoming Guyana bound was that he had entered the political arena. Nicky was not formally educated, but he was quick witted and intelligent, easily transferring his street smarts and writing skills from music to politics. It was Minister Martin Carter and Forbes Burnham who initially saw promise in a young Nicky, looking beyond his street kid roots to the raw talent within. Ivor recalls that Nicky ‘had a way with words’, and was ‘good writing and giving speeches, and public addresses.’. Nicky, like Ivor was a true son of Guyana. With his talent and skill Nicky became an active member of The Government It was during this period of Nicky’s life that he expanded his skills to include those of a journalist, even though, as Ivor said, ‘…he did not hold the official title of Journalist.’ Nicky wrote for the Graphic newspaper, under the name “Grapevine” and other magazines as well as for his Ministry’s magazine called “Infocal” I don’t remember the name but I believe that it is the right one. He wrote comedy skits.
Thinking back, Ivor recalled Nicky’s life as an influential and important member of The Government, working behind the scenes. This was a time in Guyana’s history when they had just gained independence from British Rule, (Prior to independence the country was named British Guiana). Ivor tells us, that later on in the 70s Nicky worked for the Ministry of Information, playing an important part in the day to day running of the cultural aspect of things behind the scenes. Ivor shared that Nicky had some access to his Minister of information at the time. He added that if someone wanted to get an audience with her, Nicky was the man who could arrange it. As any country going through changes, Guyana at one time was in a state of unrest.
There was much tension between the different racial/cultural communities of Guyana in the 1960’s and 70’s. The East Indians and the descendants of slaves, (black community), the Portuguese, the Amerindians, the Caucasians, the Chinese, were all at odds with one another, making it hard to unite the country politically. The People’s National Congress, a national party which some falsely believed that the party just represented the Blacks lead the entire Nation politically during this era, with a Socialist agenda, for all six peoples of the land.
Despite the racial tensions and civil unrest, many of the people of Guyana, welcomed and supported Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, and his party, The People’s National Congress, understanding that as Socialists, they would endeavour to help all Guyanese citizens despite their race, creed or colour. It was as a member of this Government, that Nicky was able to have a place in Guyana’s history, beyond that of a performer, He was chosen as a youth leader and sent on the first ‘Developer’s course to work and on the fourth to study to be in charge of the cultural department of the party. But he was not being released from his position at the Ministry of Information because it was told that he was more needed there, and so he remained with the Ministry of Information. The People’s National Congress made many improvements to Guyana, such as the building of roads, transit systems and the general industrialisation/modernisation of the country over all, making many isolated villages and towns accessible to trade and commerce. By the end of Burnham’s run in the Presidency, Nicky had moved on to create a new life for himself in North America.
Though Nicky ultimately settled in Toronto, Canada, he never abandoned his relationship with Ivor, often visiting and calling his old friend. During our interview, Ivor mentioned more than once that Nicky was, “…a very caring and loyal friend. The kind who will call you out of the blue because he wants to know how you are”. He also described Nicky as being very intuitive, always, “knowing when to call. Always when I was having trouble or problems”. He said that Nicky always knew when something was wrong without Ivor ever having to tell him.
One example of Nicky’s “caring” and “kindness”, was when Ivor was having problems with his kidneys. According to Ivor, Nicky called and inquired constantly and was extremely supportive and encouraging during his convalescence. Ivor credits Nicky as being, “One of the most humble, caring and kind”, people he has ever met.
Nicky’s kindness and caring is also evident in other memories shared by Ivor. One recollection was of a visit to Toronto where he was going to perform in a Caribbean showcase with some other artists like ‘The Mighty Sparrow’ and ‘Mark Holder’. Due to a delayed flight, Ivor had to go straight to his show and then back to the airport, which did not give him time to visit his old friend Nicky. Unbeknownst to Ivor, Nicky had planned a big day for the two of them and had waited at the hotel where Ivor was supposed to stay for quite some time. Ivor shared that Nicky “is the sort of guy who would always go out of his way for a friend”, this, he says “is his character”. Ivor also shared other examples of Nicky arranging places for Ivor to stay in Toronto during other visits, and of Nicky taking time out from his current role as a Religious Teacher when and if ever his friend Ivor comes to town.
When asked about Nicky’s in his role as a Religious Teacher and whether it impacted their relationship at all, Ivor had the following to say. “Nicky is a humble man… he is known by his birth name, Shadrock, or Shaddy as his grandfather called him… but if you were to walk into his place of worship, you would not know he was a teacher, he looks like just another guy… he doesn’t raise himself up to be praised or elevated… he never tried to push his religious beliefs on me or convert me… he never tries to elevate himself above others, not when he was in the government, not in his church…he is just like that…to me, he is just my good friend Nicky, he always will be.” Ivor also called Nicky, “as good a friend as anyone could hope to have”, stating that “Nicky always tell it like it is, he is blatantly honest” and that Nicky is “one of the best men I have ever known, a man of character, integrity and honesty…a great man”. Ivor credits Nicky with being an integral part of his life from their adolescence, up until today.
Guyana has evolved much since Ivor and Nicky first left her shores, as have the two friends, whom are now both fathers and grandfathers. Guyana’s political storms have calmed, she is now recognized worldwide as Guyana, ‘The Land of Many Waters’; a must see travel destination for adventurers and admirers of nature’s great wonders. As for Ivor and Nicky, though they have entered into the Golden Years of their lives, it hasn’t slowed them down. They are both still active, leading very busy lives and generously sharing their wealth of knowledge and life experience with the generations behind them. Ivor Lynch and Nicky Porter are two of Guyana’s beloved sons. Many people andrelationships passed through their lives during the past sixty some odd years or so, but their friendship has stood the test of times.
When asked how he would sum up Nicky as a friend and as a man, Ivor repeated the statement, ‘If you meet Nicky Shadrock Porter as a friend he is a friend forever. That is who he is to me’.