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Vincentian receives doctorate from Coventry University

Vincentian receives doctorate from Coventry University



A Vincentian musician has received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Coventry University.

Vibert Cornwall, orignally from Level Garden / Old Montrose, received his award on November 23, 2010, for his contribution to Music.

Vibert, who is the brother of the later calypsonian, Reginald “The Professor” Cornwall, had the honour conferred on him at Coventry Cathedral.

A citation read by Dr. Mark Evans said Cornwall is known in Coventry as local soul legend Ray King. “He is renowned not only for his undisputed musical talent, but also for his formative influence on the development of Coventry’s 2-Tone music movement. As well as his successful music career, he has also been a key figure in Coventry’s black community over the last thirty years.”

According to the citation, Vibert migrated to Coventry from St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a teenager. He began singing in the Coventry Working Men’s Clubs in 1966. His first real gig was at the Craftsman’s Arms in Rotherham Road. Shortly after that he linked up with a band known as Suzi and The Kingsize Kings. It was at this point that Vibert first adopted the name of Ray King and the group changed its name to the Ray King Soul Band. The band was very successful; they supported several high profile acts, and were booked for a residency at the famous Playboy Club in London. They even played several times at The Lanch, as the University, then a College of Technology, was colloquially known. At one memorable club performance, Vibert remembers how the band was joined on stage by Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney. The Ray King Soul Band once pulled a bigger crowd at Coventry’s Locarno than the Rolling Stones.

The band continued to tour in Britain and in Europe, eventually splitting up in the 1970s. However, Ray was keen to put something back into music, so he started helping young bands. He knew some musicians in Gloucester whom he brought to Coventry to form Pharaoh’s Kingdom, with Ray on vocals. One of the band members introduced Neol Davies to the members of the band, and he in turn brought along his friend Jerry Dammers, and with the inclusion of the Smith brothers a new band was formed called Night Trane. Ray took this band to Tunisia, where he began to explore ska beats. Eventually Dammers and Davies left to form respectively the Specials and The Selector.

Ray eventually went into music management, but continued to lend support to the West Indian community in Coventry. For many years, he has been Chairman of the Coventry West Indian Community Centre and a driving force behind Cariba, an organization committed to helping young black offenders get into training and employment. This has included projects like the provision of driving lessons for black youths, in order to improve their confidence and employability. He has also worked with the local health authority to establish a black carer’s project, which has helped black elders to maintain their independence and gave respite help to carer’s themselves.

All this amounts to a quite remarkable contribution to two important areas of Coventry’s history: firstly the development of 2-Tone in the 1970s, and secondly his support for the black community in Coventry through his voluntary and altruistic efforts.

“In recognition of his major contribution over many years to the music scene in Coventry and in recognition of his work in the West Indian and black ethnic communities in the city, Coventry University, by decision of the Academic Board, has the privilege of conferring the Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, on Vibert Cornwall,” the citation read.

On behalf of the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the UK High Commission take this opportunity to congratulate Dr. Vibert Cornwall aka Dr. Ray King on this momentous occasion. We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with notable Vincentians who distinguish themselves in all fields of endeavours. Well done, Dr. Vibert Cornwall.