Caribbean promoter music dies in Tobago at 69

Clyde McNeil who worked with a television station in Tobago, is seen in picture with microphone in hand doing an interview with Kail Zingapan , a 3D mapping expert with the Philippine Association for Cultural Development

Clyde McNeil, widely known promoter of Caribbean music who owned  Club Trinidad, died  at hospital in Tobago on January 3 last. He was 69.

Friends of  the promoter  said that  he  had been ailing with kidney problems and high blood pressure

McNeil who came to Canada in 1966, worked as a lab technician at the Toronto General hospital before embarking on a colourful career as an impresario and club owner.

As Daryl Auwai, a friend of McNeil, noted, Club Trinidad became “a fixture in Caribbean culture in Toronto” and as the club became more successful, McNeil saw the need for providing Black music that wasn’t readily available in Toronto and began importing and selling records under the  “Big C ” label.

Auwai  said that in 1973, McNeil  broke new ground by promoting the first major concert at the Ontario Place Forum, featuring Byron Lee, Johnny Nash, Ken Lazarus and Tomorrow’s Children, The Fabulous Five, Swinging Stars, and The Tradewinds.

“The Forum seated 15,000 people but more than 2,000 turned up and eventually mashed down the security fences,” Auwai recalled.

McNeil also became involved in local politics.

In 1996, he was on the steering committee for Citizens for Local Democracy, a group concerned about broad community representation in Metro Toronto politics.

“Notably on that committee were former Toronto Mayor John Sewell and not-yet-a-politician, Kathleen Wynne, the current Premier of Ontario,” Auwai  recalled.

Broadcaster Jai Ojah-Maharaj recalls that  for  several years McNeil was a co-host on his radio programme Caribbean Connections on Station CHIN-FM.

“Of  course, Clyde was very knowledgeable about the music we played on the program and had  his pulse on local and Caribbean politics,” said Ojah-Maharaj.

But the popular promoter who used to play soccer  with the Toronto team, Iere, fell on hard times and about ten years ago returned to his native twin-island country and settled in Tobago where he worked  with a local television station.

A funeral service  for Clyde McNeil was held yesterday in Scarborough,Tobago.