My friend Kingsley Goodison, also known as King Omar, puts on a wonderful show in Jamaica each year called Tribute to the Greats. He publishes a magazine and program to accompany this show and the publication in 2012 for the 15th annual Tribute to the Greats show contained a wonderful article on the Australian connection that I would like to share. Kingsley has been in the music industry for decades. He is brother to Bunny Goodison, music historian, and Lorna Goodison, author and professor. Kingsley worked for Studio One for many years and he is a legend.
Here is the article from his program:
The Australian Connection
Jamaica’s music scene has attracted people from all over the world from its early beginnings and Tribute to the Greats has acknowledged this in the past. The Cuban connection was with recognition of Rudolph “Baba Mack” McDonald and other Afro-Cuban artistes. The Caribbean connection which celebrated the contributions of Trinidad and Tobago’s Lyn Taitt, Kenrick “Lord Creator” Patrick, Kenneth Lara, and Barbadian Jackie Opel.
For the 15th Anniversary of Tribute to the Greats, it was decided that the Australian connection would be highlighted. Dennis Syndrey, Graeme Goodall, Peter Stoddart, and Lowell Morris will be recognized at the Awards Show and Dance for their contribution to the Jamaican scene.
Graeme Goodall Graeme Goodall: Born in Melbourne, Australia, Goodall first came to Jamaica in the early 1950s, assisting administrators at the fledgling Radio Jamaica to install its broadcast network.
Goodall was with pioneer music producer when he established his first recording studio in the last 150s. When Chris Blackwell started Island Records in 1959, Goodall and music producer Leslie Kong were partners in the company.
Though Goodall founded Doctor Bird Records when he moved to London in the 1960s, many associate him with his work as a sound engineer, especially at Federal Records where he fine-tuned countless hit songs.
He is also credited with helping to get Jamaican music on British pirate radio in 1965, paving the way for ska and later rock steady to make it on mainstream airwaves in that country.
Dennis Sindrey: Australian born Dennis Sindrey began his musical career playing guitar in various clubs and hotels in Melbourne, Australia along with fellow band members Lowell Morris (drums) and Peter Stoddart (piano). The group’s manager and band leader Max Wildman, accepted invitation to come to Jamaica in 1958 and play at the renowned Glass Bucket Club. They christened themselves the Caribs and began their musical sojourn in Jamaica. When the Glass Bucket closed, the Caribs, now including other local musicians became the house band at the Myrtle Bank Hotel.
The Caribs also established themselves as a backing band and performed duties for many artistes signed with Chris Blackwell’s Island Records. While recording their own records at RJR, they became acquainted with fellow Australian, recording engineer Graeme Goodall, a relationship which continued for several years.
The Caribs broke up some years later when Lowell and Max returned to Australia, but Sindrey remained in Jamaica playing guitar for Byron Lee and the Dragonaires and Kes Chin’s Souvenirs. He continued to record with famous producers including Coxsone, Prince Buster, and Leslie Kong. He has played on recordings for the Skatalites, Millie Small, Laurel Aitken, Owen Grey, Jimmy Cliff, and many others. In 1962, he joined with Stoddart and formed the New Caribs and performed at the Sheraton Hotel.
In 1968 Sindrey moved to the US where he continued to be involved with the music business. He met up with Graeme Goodall when a concert series titled “The Legends of Ska” was held in Toronto, Canada. In 2008, Stoddart, Morris, and Sindry held a Caribs Reunion concert in Melbourne which has a vibrant ska scene. Sindrey continues to make music in South Florida.
The first time my friend Michael Turner chatted me up about the way many female singers use a baby voice we were at Gloria’s in Port Royal and I was too distracted by the head and tail still on his red snapper and the froth on my Red Stripe to get past the surface response of, “Yeah, there are a few of them, aren’t there?” We threw out Millie Small of course, and a few others. The second time he mentioned it was recently on instant messenger and he sent me few links to some Hazel & the Jolly Boys tunes, and there it was again. I had to investigate.
Why the baby voice? Why do a number of women in the early 1960s sing like a little tiny girl? It can’t be real, right? It sounds like a falsetto. It’s the difference between the Madonna of “Like a Virgin” and the Madonna of “Like a Prayer.” Two different voices, one contrived, one full and deep. Vocal personas. Of course the most notable of examples is Millie Small’s “My Boy Lollipop,” and considering the popularity of this song, I have come up with a couple of theories on the baby voice and would like your opinions, so chime in at the comment section at the end. And if you’re not sure what I mean, here are a few links:
Hazel & the Jolly Boys and the Fugitives: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFZY-qRkxNM
Hazel & the Jolly Boys and the Fugitives: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=435G6-ISqlY
Okay, so let’s start at the beginning. It has been theorized that the falsetto (and I do believe this is related, as I will show) originated in African folk music. I’m not sure this really translates to Jamaican culture though because the African folk music featuring falsetto came from the Mbube style of South Africa, and the tribes that came to Jamaica through the slave trade came from West Africa, so there may or may not be a connection. But the early American rhythm and blues forms, and the music that preceded that, like blues and gospel, also featured falsetto, and this music definitely influenced Jamaican music.
In the 1930s and 1940, even before those radio broadcasts came to Jamaica via New Orleans, Miami, and Nashville radio airwaves, groups like the Swan Silvertones and the Soul Stirrers used falsetto in their repertoire. One of the most important blues singers, “Howlin’ Wolf who helped to develop the Chicago blues style, combined both falsetto howl and a growling voice to characterize his own sound. Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Jr. had his classic novelty R&B tune “Ain’t Got No Home,” in which he uses a falsetto.
In the 1950s, groups like The Ink Spots, Little Joe & The Thrillers, Jan & Dean, the Flamingos, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, and dozens of others used a falsetto for the high tenor to round out the full line-up of harmonic tones. Were these groups an influence on Jamaican vocalists? You betcha they were! Patsy Todd told me herself, “I’m somebody who liked to listen to the radio, and I really got interested in this group, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers. I used to hear them singing and I used to sing after them.”
We know that a number of Jamaican vocalists over the years then employed the falsetto from time to time, including the Jiving Juniors in 1962 with “Sugar Dandy,” Desmond Dekker in plenty of songs, and of course, Junior Murvin in the classic Police and Thieves in 1976 to name just a few.
How is the falsetto connected to the baby voice? They sure aren’t the same thing. Well I would argue that it is a woman’s attempt at a tiny little voice, like the falsetto. A female voice attempting a falsetto is, well, just a female voice in a way, so perhaps they were trying to minimize their voice in the same style—after all, Jamaican musicians during this era were attempting to emulate the sounds they heard from America with their own take on it.
But I do have a few other thoughts on this subject too. I really do feel that Millie Small’s voice in her “My Boy Lollipop” classic is her singing voice. I just talked to Millie a few months ago and her voice is tiny, even in conversation. That’s not to say that as Millie’s singing voice matured that other deeper qualities didn’t come out, but in 1964 at age 15 when that song was recorded, she was using her little girl voice which can be heard in almost all of her other songs like “We’ll Meet” with Roy Panton in 1962, “Sweet William” in 1964, and “Hey Boy Hey Girl” with Jimmy Cliff in 1966. Considering that a little girl voice was so popular during this era that even the men were trying to use one, Millie sure didn’t try to get rid of it. The heavy tones and gloomy themes of Billie Holliday and female jazz singers were no longer in fashion. It was upbeat, spritely, fresh, and independent. Considering the popularity of this song, which was HUGE, it’s not too farfetched to see that many other vocalists continued in the same vein. In 1967, Hazel Wright recorded “Stop Them” with the Jolly Boys and the Fugitives, with the B side “Deep Down,” both of which feature the baby voice. There are others too so identify some more in the comment section, if you hear one or two.
There is one more thing I want to mention before I finish my end of the discussion here, especially since the form of the duet was so popular during this time. There is the underlying, certainly not overt, image of the female as sweet, demure, needing a strong man for survival, while the male is the strong provider, the savior, the powerful character. This is a traditional and stereotypical role for men and women, especially during this era. Before you cry foul, think about the images portrayed in American television during the late 1950s and early 1960s, the images of sexuality and femininity—they are innocent and wearing pearls. That’s not to say there weren’t other images of women during this time, but the baby-voiced girl certainly fit in with the times.
Just a few of my thoughts. What are yours?
And I am adding this paragraph to my post after reading some EXCELLENT comments made by fellow JA music aficionados. The influence may very well be Shirley & Lee, that duo that has hugely popular in Jamaica during the late 1950s. The vocal team was from New Orleans so not only were Jamaicans getting songs like “Let the Good Times Roll” and “The Flirt” on radio from WNOE, but they also witnessed Shirley & Lee in person since they performed in Kingston a number of times. They performed at the Carib Theater in October, 1957 when they were billed as “The Sweethearts of the Blues.” They returned in August 1961 and performed at the Palace Theater, and again in July, 1962 when they performed at the Ambassador, the Ritz, in Spanish Town, and the Cosmo Race Course and their songs were frequently ranked on Jamaican charts.
For a sample of Shirley & Lee, check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM9yYL6BD-4
Every good musician has a nickname. Well, maybe not every musician, but many of them. And Jamaican culture is certainly known for dishing out some pretty fantastic nicknames, like Bunny and Wingy and Chicken. And I always love Jamaican musician nicknames, like Trommie for the trombonist, Drummie for the drummer, Saxa for saxophonist in the case of the Beat, and other classics—Tan Tan, Ribs, Cannonball, Sparrow, Clue J, Scully, Junior, Stranger, and one I wrote about last week—White Rum. Of course all of the royal monikers like Sir and Duke and Prince and Lord were ways to take back colonial power. Heck, Jamaica itself has a nickname—Jamrock. When I was on the Kingston waterfront one day and saw a huge black bird, I asked my taxi driver what the name of the specie was and he said, “We call them Old Man Joe.” Same thing happened when I saw a fish—“black fish.” Nicknames are so much a part of Jamaican culture, in many cases they take over the birth name.
So it got me thinking, there was a man I always heard of by his nickname and rarely his real name, and I wanted to find out a bit more about him. It’s easy to figure out which instrument he plays, with a name like Drumbago, and it turns out he had quite an important career, helping to shape the ska rhythm.
Drumbago’s real name is Arkland Parkes, although the only two articles that the Daily Gleaner ran on him, when he died, name him as Auckland Parkes. That’s probably not accurate, and perhaps comes from a mix up with Auckland Park, which is a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. Either that, or Auckland is just a typo, which is also likely.
Prince Buster asserts that it was he who created the ska style and claims to have asked Drumbago to play a march, a style of song that Prince Buster favored even as a young child, the same march-style of music that was played during carnival and in processions, heavy with drums. Prince Buster says he asked Drumbago to stress the offbeat and asked guitarist Jah Jerry to perform a guitar strum and Dennis Campbell to perform saxophone syncopation to accent the rhythm, thus creating the ska sound. As we know, there are many versions of the birth of ska, but there is no question that Drumbago was there at the beginning. In fact, he performed on what is widely accepted as the first recorded ska song, “Easy Snapping.”
Drumbago performed drums for a number of musicians in the studios during the early days, including Justin Hinds & the Dominoes, Don Drummond, Jah Jerry, Rico Rodriguez, Deadley Headley Bennett, Baba Brooks, Clancy Eccles, Derrick Morgan, Karl Bryan, Eric Monty Morris, Roy Panton, Roland Alphonso, Stranger Cole, and with the Skatalites. Drumbago even performed with the Gaylettes fronting on vocals—Judy Mowatt, Beryl Lawson, and Merle Clemonson before Mowatt went on to perform with the I-Threes.
He had his own groups, or whatever producers wanted to call the lineup on the record label, including D Bird and The Drumbago Band, Drumbago and His Harmonizers, Drumbago’s All Stars, Drumbago and Jazz Beat, Drumbago and Prince Buster All Stars, Drumbago and The Blenders, Drumbago and Soul Rhythms, Drumbago and The Dynamites, Drumbago’s Orchestra, Magic Notes and Drumbago, Monarchs and Drumbago All Stars, The Drumbago Ska Band, Raymond Harper with the Drumbago Band, and he also did producing for musicians as well.
The following are the two articles that the Daily Gleaner ran when Drumbago died—one announcing his death and recapping his life, and the other on his burial. Take note of some of the mourners at his funeral which includes many musicians.
Mr. Auckland Parkes, musician, dies
From the Daily Gleaner, January 23, 1969
Mr. Auckland Alvin (Drumbago) Parkes, leader of the Drumbago Orchestra, died on Sunday [January 19, 1969] in the Maxfield Medical Centre Hospital, after a short illness. He was living at 8 Crescent Road, Kingston 13. He was regarded as one of the best drummers in Jamaica and in addition played the flute. Mr. Parkes was also a pioneer in local recording when he began making recorded music back in 1959.
He started his musical career at the age of 15 playing the drums in his brother’s (Mr. Luther Parkes) orchestra. After leaving his brother’s band he appeared in night clubs and on stages throughout the Island with other top orchestras which included Eric Deans orchestra, Val Bennett and his All-Stars and Frankie Bonitto Combo.
Sometime in the late 40’s he formed his own orchestra and had regular weekend shows at the then Silver Slipper Club, Cross Roads, where his versatility on the drums earned him the name “Drumbago.”
He then took on a contract at the Baby Grand Club, Cross Roads, and played there on weekends for seven years before leaving and entering the recording field.
He also did a two-year stint in the United States and for a period he was top drummer in orchestras on tourist cruise ships. On his return to Jamaica he continued his performances to many capacity audiences at theatres and night clubs.
After giving up the Baby Grand engagement he continued with the orchestra but concentrated more on records and playing at street dances at all the independence festivals.
Some of his earlier recordings were “Second Fiddle,” “Chariot Rock,” “Betrayers Downfall,” “Easy Snapping,” “Humpty Dumpty” sung by Eric Morris; and was featured musician for Prince Buster’s All-Stars.
In the 1962 independence celebrations he was the drummer in Derrick Morgan’s hit tune “Forward March,” and his band figured at the street dances.
He continued making records up to the time of his death and in the latter part of 1968 he recorded tunes such as “Mary Poppins,” “Dulcimina,” and his latest hit which was released a few weeks ago is the current No. 1 tune “Everything- Crash.” He also has a lot of tunes which are complete but not yet released on the recording market.
Survivors are his brothers Luther, and Pastor Arnold Parkes, sister, Olive (Mrs. McCatty), nieces, Mrs. Vera Hanson, Dahlia and Marjorie, adopted daughter, Jennifer, nephews, Ernie, Michael and John, and other relatives. Funeral services for Mr. Parkes will be held on Sunday at Sam Isaacs Funeral Parlour, 44 Hanover Street, at 3 p.m. Interment will be at the May Pen Cemetery.
Mr. Auckland Parkes Buried
from the Daily Gleaner, January 28, 1969
Funeral services for Mr. Auckland (Drumbago) Parkes, leader of the Drumbago Orchestra, who died recently in the Maxfield Medical Centre Hospital after a short illness, were held at Sam Isaacs Funeral Parlour, Hanover Street, on Sunday afternoon. Interment followed in the May Pen Cemetery. The services were conducted by the Rev. S. E. Johnson of the New Testament Church of God, who eulogized Mr. Parkes as a good family man and a person who was loved by all who knew him.
Mr. Parkes, who died at 50, was regarded as one of the best drummers In Jamaica and in addition played the flute. He was also a pioneer in local recording when he began making recorded music back In 1959.
Pallbearers were: Mr. Luther Parkes and Pastor Arnold Parkes (brothers), Mr. Ernest Hanson, Mr. Bill Campbell, Mr. Richard Williams and Mr. Boysie Stewart.
Family mourners were- Mr. John Hanson and C. Hanson (grandnephews). Misses Dahlia Hanson and Majorie Hanson (grandnieces), Olive Parkes (sister). Mr. Albert Parkes, (son) and Master Richard Parkes (grandson).
Among the many other mourners were: Mr. Cleveland Webber, Mr. Stanley Notice, Mr. C. Campbell, Mr. Percival Dillon, Mr. Alvin Wilson, Mr. A. O’Brian, Mr. Claude Gobonrne, Mr. Alphonso Dockett. Miss Shirley Thompson, Miss Monica Paige, Messrs Arthur Lee, Clifton Thompson, Clancy Eccles, C. O Brian, Percy Myers, Val Bennett and Mr. Clifton Bailey. _Mr. Hedley Walker, Mrs. I. Miller. Mr. Eric Phillips Mr. Mapletoft Poulle, Mr. Alfred O’Brian, Mr. J. Coleman, Mr. P. Cole, Mr. R. Patterson, Mr. J. Thompson, Mr. Cecil Savery Mr. D. Saunders, Mr. V. Anderson, Mr. A. J. Stephenson, Mr. George Tucker, Mr. L. Malabre, Miss P. Anderson, Miss I. Stuart, Mrs. I. Francis, Mr. Ernest McGann and Mr. V. Wallace.
Last October I wrote about the Glass Bucket, so now I’d like to take some time to talk about another venue that gave ska musicians the opportunity to showcase their talent and earn a living—the Silver Slipper.
The Silver Slipper opened on May 23, 1931. The short comment about its opening in the Daily Gleaner stated, “Another night club dawns on us—the ‘Silver Slipper’ at Cross Roads which opens next Saturday. We hear it will be well worth a visit.”
The address was 9 Old Hope Road and it was a members-only club, which was really just a euphemism for whites only. Patrons included barristers, doctors, tourists, and the military. They also occasionally opened their doors to host charity events, such as raising funds for tuberculosis treatment in the mid-1930s, which was an illness that gripped the island, the Jamaica Olympic Association, and St. Joseph Infant School.
In the 1930s, the entertainment was largely musical and occasionally featured other entertainment as well, like magicians. Guest musicians were brought in from the United States, such as baritone saxophonist Bob Martin in 1933; famous dancers, Cherie and Tomasita straight from the Broadway review, in 1934; and Gaile Darling in 1935 for a three month engagement. Senor Juan Lucas’ Sonora Marimba and Jazz Orchestra along with King’s Rhythm Aces were the house bands in the mid-1930s. In December, 1934, the Silver Slipper’s dance hall and supper rooms were remodeled and enlarged.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the Silver Slipper continued to host private affairs such as annual dinners for exclusive schools like the St. George’s Old Boys Association (alma mater to Byron Lee and former Prime Minister Edward Seaga), Immaculate Conception High School Association, Bethlehem College Old Girls, and other select groups like the Melbourne Cricket Club. Over the decades, year after year, the Silver Slipper Club also played host to the Caribbean Table Tennis Championships. The Silver Slipper Club even hosted a number of large auctions, selling furniture, appliances, carpets, and equipment since it could house the lots.
In the 1940s, music at the Silver Slipper came from two prime orchestras—George Moxey & His Orchestra, and Milton McPhearson & His Orchestra. They performed the jazz standards of Europe and the United States.
In the 1950, music came from Sonny Bradshaw and his band with Baba Motta on piano. They called themselves Sonny Bradshaw and the Real Gone Guys. Frank Bonito and His Orchestra were also a standard, and Baba Motta also performed at the Silver Slipper with Harold “Little G” McNair and Lord Fly in a band called the Mechanics All-Star Orchestra. Other orchestras performing at the Sliver Slipper Club in the 1950s were led by Roy Coburn (and his Blue Flame Orchestra), Val Bennett, Vivian Hall, and George Alberga. Eric Deans performed at the Silver Slipper from time to time, as he did in June 1955 in what the club billed as a “One Night Stand,” meaning they weren’t a regular act. In April, 1956, Don Drummond performed with Vivian Hall. He had previously been performing at the Colony Club, with Eric Deans, and the Bournemouth Club headlining his own band.
Also in the 1950s, Tom “The Great Sebastian” Wong had his sound system located at the Silver Slipper. Because it was such an upper class club, the sound system was sometimes referred to as an “uptown set.” Tom Wong was a table tennis player from Jones Town who built his own sound system from goods he acquired at the hardware store he operated. Also in the 1950s, Duke Reid and his sound system played at the Silver Slipper as well.
The recording era was not good for live entertainment. The clubs were once the source for all music in Kingston, but when the sound system operators left the clubs to enter the studios in the 1960s, records could now be purchased for music in the home, in the yard. Plus, live musicians could find employment in the studio so the clubs began to suffer. And the music began to change. Large-scale jazz orchestras were no longer popular in the United States and so when tourists came to the island to visit they didn’t want to hear this old-fashioned music. American rhythm and blues was the thing, and Jamaican music changed to reflect the tastes of the people.
In October 1967, just after hosting its last Caribbean Table Tennis Tournament, the Silver Slipper Club closed its doors for good. They ran a want ad in the Daily Gleaner with the notice that they were clearing the building for development. In November the building was demolished.
A front page story in the Daily Gleaner on October 5, 1967 stated, “’Silver Slipper’ has had a long and colourful history as a centre of entertainment in Kingston. It was one of the pioneer night clubs of the city, sharing honours with the long-vanished Bronx Park, Springfield Club, and the still-existing Glass Bucket Club (now re-named the VIP Club). Situated near Up Park Camp it was at one time the popular haunt of English soldiers before 1962. In more recent times, it has been a sports center, being especially used as a venue for table tennis competitions. Mr. Joseph, who acquired the building recently, has advertised it for sale, as the site has to be cleared within two weeks for the start of the new commercial development there.” That commercial development was the Silver Slipper Plaza, a shopping center that still stands there today.
Although I wasn’t there to witness the Silver Slipper Club in its heyday and have only driven past the Silver Slipper Plaza to pay my respects, many of you have memories and history to share, so post your comments here and continue the discussion.