The undisputed maestro of the Bahamian Big Band era is none other than FM Sr. as he was and still is affectionately called. Born at Pure Gold, Andros, FM migrated to the city of Nassau after the death of his father in the devastating hurricane that created havoc in The Bahama Islands in 1926. FM was cut out for show biz from the start. His tall captivating stature only helped his stage image. FM, who began on the trumpet, soon mastered many other instruments including the piano, clarinet, and saxophone. FM has truly left an indelible mark on the Bahamian musical landscape. He, and no other like him since, was host to some of the greatest days of entertainment in The Bahamas.
Although his show business career began at the Zanzibar, his heyday took flight at The Silver Slipper where his orchestra spent many years. FM could have settled for the level of success attained at that time, but chose to further his studies in the early 50's. He then went off to the New England Conservatory and there he studied composition and music theory. Not long after his return home, the Cat N' Fiddle night spot was his brainchild, and that club took off and became the pride and joy of all clubs in the Over-The-Hill area in Nassau. There on Nassau Street from 1955 well into the late 60's, he would feature some of the greatest stars of the Western Hemisphere including persons like Sammy Davis Jr. Paul Anka, Harry Belafonte, Perez Prado, Ben E. King, Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole and Count Basie. It was not uncommon for FM to entertain movers and shakers like Prime Minister Macmillan, President Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. with whom he developed a great friendship.
"Entertainers enjoyed a place of prominence in this country during this era." (Penn, 2004) The Cat 'n' Fiddle brought a sense of pride to black Bahamians all over. Politicians would scramble to place themselves alongside musicians for attention. Much like the rest of the world, the musicians were the voice of the people; they, at that time had the support and attention of the people. FM's influence trekked clear across the racial divide, which made him a well-respected individual to all. His concern for social justice placed him in the throes of frontline politics in the 1940's, in an effort to “break the back of racial discrimination” practiced in the islands. He’s credited with being instrumental in the successful struggle to bring about majority rule in the late 60’s.
As a member of the Kiwanis Club service organization, and founding member of the Bahamas Musicians & Entertainers Union, FM did his civic duty in the uplifting of his fellow Bahamians. Freddie was also a generous businessman, a socially conscious individual, and a consummate professional. These are but a few of his traits. His life's work was recognized by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Nassau in 1977. He was then made an Officer of The Most Excellent Order of The British Empire (OBE). His generosity continued long after he left the bright stage lights of the Cat 'n' Fiddle, and he practiced an open door policy which even the author had the opportunity to enjoy on occasion.
Freddie has left a legacy of professionalism, social consciousness and generosity that is most commendable and worthy of emulating. His great vision was realized, and did great favor to the music industry in the little Bahamas.