Tonight at the Diamond: David Rudder & Tony Hall’s Brand New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club

David Rudder’s play-in-a-song “The Brand New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club” brings old-time Port of Spain back to life on stage

“I could see actors on stage singing it”. Photograph by Jeffery ChockQuweina Roberts, sitting, and Conrad Parris in the Indiana State production of Lucky Diamond. Photograph by Jeffery Chock

This is a tale ’bout the other side of
The other side of town
The kinda place where decent people look left, sneer
Then spit on the ground,
The kinda joint where the very point
Is that any number could play
That’s the place, they say
Where the preacher tell Jesus
Don’t let me catch you in there

They had this girl
They call Sheila from South, hah
Put on she mini, and she red up she mouth, hah
She smoking a cigar and she standing up bad, hah
She have a bottom that could humble the hard

In this New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club
New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club, awright
New Lucky Diamond, New Lucky Diamond
Brand New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club

There is an old man sitting there
They call him Mista Nation
Drinking kakapool rum and swinging a cocoyea broom
With a hymn-book on he left knee
Collection plate on the floor
One set of bible talk outside the wappie room
Today’s sermon is doom and gloom

Then he sight
Sheila from South, hah
She of the mini, and the red of the mouth, hah
Old Patience (Mista Nation) watching she hard
She start to wine, he bawl, “Sweet Trinidad!”

New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club, oh Lord, yeah
Lay down your money and state your business
New Lucky Diamond, it’s the New Lucky Diamond
Brand New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club

If you see Prune Face Jean and an Englishman
They was wining down on the floor
An old criminal they call Walkin’ Death
Was stepping through the door
In room number three
The jukebox was playing “Paul your mother come”
Two macomere man and a fella name Singh
Was fighting over rum
Singh say, “I not giving allyuh none.”

Then he eyeball
Sheila from South, hah
She of the mini, and the red of the mouth, hah
She cock up she leg and do a kinda swing
He say, “Sheila darling, take everything.”

They say the scene was grim, brother man, when people saw the flames
You could see the fire ’busing the night sky all over Port of Spain
That was the fateful night when “The Diamond” ran out of luck
Somebody swore they heard the 23rd Psalm before the match got struck
A lady say, “I not shocked. I not shocked.”

Now nobody knows about Sheila from South
They say the flames was red like she mouth
Next day, a fireman was checking out the place
He twist his ankle on a lipstick case.


— David Rudder, “The Brand New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club”

The original Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club was on Port of Spain’s Wrightson Road, in an area nicknamed the Gaza Strip. It operated there through World War Two and for a few years after, but later it moved downtown, to the corner of Duke and Henry Streets. Its site now reduced to a car park, the club was, in its heyday, a haunt of seedy nocturnal characters. It survived till the mid 1990s, when a mysterious fire razed the building.

The song “The Brand New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club”, on David Rudder’s 2000 album Zero, sandwiched between “Wining in de Carnival” and “Trini Girls”, unfolds like a play. In the 1980s, when Rudder worked in the accounts department of Trinidad’s Public Transport Service Corporation, he often worked well into the wee hours of the morning, and would sometimes pass the Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club on his way to get a taxi home to Belmont.

“It was a wretched little space,” he remembered. “There always seemed to be a red light glowing from the interior, and you would be passing and somebody might try to stab somebody right in front the place, or you hear somebody breaking a bottle or something . . . you would even cross the road to get away from walking in front of the club.”

Years later, while encouraging a young photographer to capture images of old Port of Spain, Rudder mentioned the club, telling him he felt “that part of Trinidad was going away”. The photographer promised to take the picture, but only a few days later the club burned down.

Rudder says he thought the song “The Brand New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club” was a play when he wrote it, as he had been thinking seriously about “taking his work into that area of expression”.

“A lot of playwrights toyed with the idea, and nothing serious came out of it, but then Tony [Hall] called, and his challenge was to write a play within the perimeters of the characters I created, so I waited to see what he came up with.”

Hall heard Rudder’s song in 2000, and without knowing Rudder’s ambitions, he too thought it was a play. “I didn’t even really know the song, but the verses were laid out and it creates a whole set of characters and the characters interact in certain ways . . . and the way the chorus was sung, I could see actors on stage singing it,” he recalls.

Hall goes on: “And then in 2003, in his Blessed album, [Rudder] did a song called “Show Me a Sign”, and there is a piece of orchestration . . . when I heard that, it sounded like some kind of apotheosis thing was happening there. I don’t even know if it was connected in his mind when he did it, but to me, “Show Me a Sign” was the sign to a preacher.

“So I called [Rudder] and I told him, I have it. So I had to write a play that was somewhere between “Show Me a Sign” and this piece of music. So the onus was on me to present something, and that is how we went about it.”

Hall had long held the view that men’s clubs like the Lucky Diamond, these gathering spaces in old Port of Spain, have an important place in the history of Trinidad and its most popular festival, Carnival. “These clubs came out of the jamette society–canboulay period,” he explains.

“These clubs were important cells of people. The style, the attitude, the worldview is something distinctly Trinidadian, and maybe in there, there is wisdom, and that wisdom could be the basis of our survival and the distinct nature of our survival as well. It is in that crucible that something Trinidadian has been created . . . In each era the stories need to be told and retold, because that is the way we process, that is the way we recognise who we are.

“Regardless of how you put it, the people in the Lucky Diamond Club are more important than any politician. These people are the warriors; these people are the people who are at the frontier of our consciousness,” Hall concludes.

So arose The Brand New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club (A Blues Kaiso in Jouvay Opera).

The musical made its debut during Indiana State University’s Summer Stage festival in July 2004, with much acclaim, garnering kudos for players, choreographers, costume design, and musical score. The cast included Trinidadian actors Rhoma Spencer and Conrad Parris, alongside Indiana State students. In February 2006, The Brand New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club will have its Trinidad debut at Queen’s Hall in Port of Spain. Spencer and Parris are expected to reprise their roles, alongside seasoned thespians like Errol Sitahal, Michael Cherrie, Maurice Brash, and Quweina Roberts (the daughter of the legendary Lord Kitchener). Just in time for the Carnival season, the Diamond — forever in the rough — will be reborn.

The Brand New Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club runs at Queen’s Hall from February 7 to 24, 2006