There is a definite link between the jive talk of Harlem and the jive talk of the American deejays who followed, and then the toasters of Kingston. I have written about this connection and evolution hereand hereand have also written an article on this topic that is in the current issue of Caribbean Quarterly which just hit the stands and I look even further at the link to hip hop and rap.
But this week I would like to share some scans of a Jive & Swing Dictionary that was compiled and published by Vic Filmer of Penzance in England–a few miles away from Harlem! Or should I say kilometers. Filmer had been a pianist at the Cafe at the Folies Bergere in Paris and had also been rated “Jazz Musician No. 1” by many publications in London, as he tells us in the “About the Author” section. This publication was one of a few jive dictionaries that had been published during the 1940s, but most of those were published in America, and I discuss those in my previous post. This one was published in England. The trend had spread. I love it when Filmer writes of the trend hitting society clubs in England, “And didn’t the old Dowagers looked shocked when they saw the youngsters cavorting around their drawing rooms in bunnyhugs, turkey-trots and what-nots, we would call it jitter-bugging now, or the later term, gandy-dancing.” Reminds me of Downton Abbey or Mr. Selfridge! Or Mr. Burns.
Anyway, have a look at this jive dictionary. Could this be one that made its way into the hands of Count Matchuki? Perhaps, or perhaps it was one of the others that was produced during these years. Amusing to imagine.
The week after an article ran in the Star Newspaper on Vincent Bogle’s creation of a hand-held guitar-like electric version of the rhumba box, this article appeared in the Star Newspaper, May 29, 1964 in response. I posted the original article in my blog two weeks ago, and you can read it here to gain context. The response article above reads:
Dear Sir–Please give this letter equal prominence in the Week-End Star as was given to the article “Jamaican Rhumba Box Goes Modern” and which appeared on the Front Page on Friday, 22nd May, 1964, written and released by the Tourist Board.
There are scores of persons who know that Vincent Bogle did not design or invent the new electric rhumba box. This letter is to let those who don’t already know, that it is I who created the design and did the electrical fittings on the electric rhumba box, which Bogle posed with in the picture in the Star.
The instrument is not working at present because I have removed the part of it which belongs to me. Bogle has no knowledge of how this instrument is made, and neither can he play it. Bogle asked me to teach him to play the instrument and I am still teaching him whenever I can find the time from my busy schedule at Club Maracas in Ocho Rios.
I am, Leabert Bowen, Club Maracas, Ocho Rios P.O. St. Ann
So you see, it seems that Bogle was NOT the inventor of this contraption and Bowen was! He set the record straight then, and we set the record straight now! Were there any others, or similar contraptions, that preceded this? Perhaps, as it was a time of tinkering, innovation, and creation, so post any knowledge you may have in the comment section below. If you would like to read about Hedley Jones’s inventions, including a double-necked electric guitar, see his article that I posted here.
Found this advertisement in the October 4, 1964 Washington Post. It’s no wonder that fashion retailers were looking to capitalize on the ska trend in the United States since ska had recently made its debut at not only the World’s Fair in New York, but also at clubs in Manhattan like the Peppermint Lounge and Shepherd Club, and even on American Bandstand, according to Ronnie Nasralla.
A Daily Gleaner article on June 6, 1964 had reported that two representatives from the William Morris Agency had visited Kingston, invited by Edward Seaga, who was then Minister of Development and Welfare, along with an attorney “in charge of copyrighting Jamaican Ska Music,” and a fashion designer named “Mrs. Frankie Katz,” who was “looking for ideas for clothes to go with the Jamaican beat.” A September 1964 edition of Mademoiselle magazine featured some of these themed clothes in a six-page spread on ska that Ronnie Nasralla produced, which you can read about here.
So you see, ska and fashion have always gone hand in hand! From the sharp suits and darkers (sunglasses) of the rude boys that Desmond Dekker brought to the U.K. where it became part of 2Tone fashion and then made its way to the U.S. and the world, the black coat, white shoes, black hat, Cadillac have always been a part of ska!
With such large cabinets of speakers known as Houses of Joy projecting waves of boogie woogie sound down the block, it’s no wonder that sound systems were known to sap an amp or two. This article from the Star Newspaper, May 28, 1964, tells of one sound system that made bills fly. What was even more interesting about this sound system is that it appears it may have been taking that electricity from a nearby government office that was attached to the same meter. The article reads, ” . . . In his memo, the MO(H) [Minister of Health] said that the bills for electricity used by the Health Office, Port Maria, appeared to be very high, although during this period November 1963 to March 1964, very little use was made of the electric fans and there had not been any need to use the lights. He wondered whether the sound system used by the yardman or some member of his household was not responsible for the excessive amount of current consumed, and he, the MO(H), suggested that the Health Office be metered separately from the yardman’s residence.” Sure enough, they agreed to install a separate meter so that the yardman’s sound system didn’t get put on the health department’s tab!