Lightning in a Bottle

June Caisey and the Caisey Family Entertainment Empire
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At a time when Bermudian entertainers could be bona-fide full time workers, there was a pint-sized powerhouse ruling the roost as the undisputed Queen of the Show! June Caisey rose to fame once the legendary Don Gibson decided that she would be the lead female in the majestic Holiday Island Revue, which featured many future legends of the local entertainment scene.

The Revue traveled from hotel to hotel, and thrilled packed rooms every night of the week for 14 years. Of course, the cast would change from time to time, but the enduring stars of the Revue were June, and her male counterpart, Gene Steede.

Gene Steede recalls that June was a very educated, hardworking, dynamic woman, with a stunning voice. She could sing with the best of them, dance until the sun came up, and light up any room! By all accounts, June Caisey was a professional, resourceful, and determined performer with a very serious ‘the show must go on’ attitude.

Known for her love of Opera music, and her ability to improvise, June Caisey was the undisputed Queen of the entertainment industry in Bermuda during her heyday; Bermuda’s very own Dorothy Dandridge.

There are stories of June Caisey performing in a show at the Castle Harbour in 1972 called Nuts of the Round Table, during which she incorporated her own pregnancy into the entertainment. She was never one to let anything slow her down, and she has the legacy to prove it!

She was the type of performer who made every other member of the group shine that much brighter. Her energy was infectious, and those who were lucky enough to see her perform when she was in her prime still hold those memories dear.

Humble and modest – almost to a fault – June Caisey continues to work hard and do all she can to shine her light on those around her. This perennially unassuming character deflected my approach for an interview, to her daughter, Phiemma Wilson, who was the driving force behind the formation of the Caisey Family Productions company around the turn of the millennium.

Growing up with a legendary entertainer as a parent can be difficult, but it can also be fascinating. Ms. Wilson remembers her early indoctrination into entertainment well:

“My mom took me to her shows at night at a very, very early age; because I always wanted to go and hear her sing. She had about 5 nights a week at all the hotel circuits at the that time, the 60’s.”

Eventually developing into an amazing performer in her own right, Ms. Wilson expounds on her formative years:

“My dad, Albert Caisey, was also out playing Funk and Rhythm & Blues in clubs, with his bands. There was plenty of music at home as well; when my dad would be rehearsing in his make-shift practice room.”Discussing the considerable Caisey family legacy, Phiemma points to another notable female entertainer in the ancestry:

“My father’s grandmother, Eliza Joyiens, was a pianist, vocalist, and dancer. She was one of the most popular performers in her era, apparently, and passed on the talent. This is what has always been said about the grandchildren – my father and his siblings.”

So influential was Eliza Joyiens, in fact, that the first Caisey Family Production was in homage to her:

“I created Caisey Family Productions about two decades ago because everyone in the family always spoke of how we as a family should do something; so, I took the bull by the horns and put it together. The first production was called The Lineage of Eliza Joyiens, and was held at the Ruth Seaton James Auditorium.”

With the massive influences of June Caisey and Eliza Joyiens combined, there’s no wonder the Caisey family has become one of the most recognized, talked about, and celebrated groups of professional entertainers in Bermuda’s remarkable performance history.

On what she values most about growing up on Bermuda, Ms. Wilson points to the abundance on instinctive, natural talent that exists within these narrow shores:

“I value the fact that there are many families out there that have plenty of talent; whether it be singing, dancing or acting and that almost every other person in this little island is talented in this aspect.”

Natural born entertainers do seem to be quite abundant in our relatively compact population, but standout dazzlers like June Caisey still deserve special praise. Ms. Wilson the legacy that her mother enhanced through the generations of her iconic family of performers:

“Mama June, as she is known, has passed on her legacy to all of her children, and some of her grandchildren. We are known to be singers and /or dancers, and actors. There used to be an annual Caisey Family show. The last one, was on a small scale mostly because of the pandemic, was held last year at Buna Café, when Mama June went 85. We’re all doing our own thing at present. My entertaining focus right now is with the Soul Sistas.”

Currently, the Caisey family legacy is being expanded into international territory by Desta Zion Wilson, who is forging his own legend as a professional singer/songwriter in the United Kingdom. Ms. Wilson wears her pride in her son well:

“Zion actually has always been musically inclined. The first time my mom and I heard him hit an operatic note he was about 5, and we knew he was going to be a singer. He’s been out there singing for a while now – since he was a teen – and he’s also a self-taught guitarist. He wanted to hone his craft, and he received a musical scholarship (Andrew Morrison), which helped him complete his musical education at the Academy of Contemporary Arts in Guilford, London. He decided to make music his full-time career choice. … We all pushed Desta to continue the musical journey like his mom, grandmother, grandfather, uncles, aunts, and cousins have done before him.”

June’s fire, energy, and flair for the spectacular live on in Desta, and the Caisey family legacy is entrenched in Bermuda’s cultural foundation – for all time.

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