Tribute to Totlyn Jackson

totlyn_jackson

I heard word from Myrna Hague-Bradshaw this week that the talented Jamaican jazz singer Totlyn Jackson died on June 15th. Totlyn had a long career in entertainment, first in Jamaica and then in England. I devote an entire chapter to this beautiful woman in my book, Songbirds: Pioneering Women in Jamaican Music.

The Voice wrote of her passing, “TOTLYN JACKSON, one of Jamaica’s little known musical exports from the 1960s, passed away in London on June 15 after a short illness. She was just one month short of her 85th birthday.

Once described as Jamaica’s first lady of song, Totlyn Jackson, made her name as a popular cabaret singer performing at some of the finest hotels on the island’s north coast during Jamaica’s tourist industry boom period of the 1950s.

It was at these venues that she met some of Hollywood’s famous actors including Clark Gable, Bob Hope and Paul Newman.

Totlyn once said that her journey into music started when she would sing in her mother’s church choir along with her four siblings while growing up in St Mary in rural Jamaica. ‘I always had music and inner harmony. By the time I was seven or eight I knew all the songs. My parents wanted us to speak the best English possible so I always won elocution and singing competitions.’

As she progressed in the church choirs, she was spotted by Stuart Sharp, the maitre d’ at the Silver Season hotel who felt she could utilise her singing talents in the hotel’s entertainment nightly shows. It was from here that Totlyn became the island’s best known cabaret singer performing at venues such as Jamaica Hilton, Round Hill and the Kingston Sheraton.

As Jamaica gained Independence in 1962 and the tourism industry slowed down from the boom years of the 1950s, Totlyn changed her cabaret style to musicals which gave her the opportunity to go on tours to America, Britain, Europe and the Soviet Union.

She later settled in London with her mother and her son Fran and continued her singing career in clubs and also the theatre. She performed in some of London’s prestigious venues including, Quaglino’s Allegro, Royal Albert Hall, London’s Playboy Club, the Cabaret Club Manchester and the Royal Restaurant in Liverpool.

Her theatre performances included the rock musical Catch My Soul and William Shakespeare’s Othello. Her singing and theatre career gave her the opportunity to perform in countries like Canada, Scandinavia, the Soviet Union, Holland, Germany, Romania, Czechoslovakia and East Africa.

As she retired from touring and cabaret performances, she switched her focus to Jamaican art and culture and in 2002 teamed up with Batteresa Arts Centre to produce ‘Boonoonoonus’ a celebration of Jamaican music to mark the island’s 40th Independence anniversary.

At the time, Totlyn said it was her way of reaching out to the second and third generation to remind them about their Jamaican heritage.”

Just last November I devoted a blog post to this wonderful woman complete with archival photos and clips of her performing. Click on the link below to link to that post, have a read, and let’s remember this legend and thank her for her contribution to music the world over.

TOTLYN JACKSON: JAMAICA’s FIRST LADY OF JAMAICAN JAZZ

Rude Boy Busbie and Derrick Morgan

Derrick Morgan will be coming back to Chicago for Reggae Fest on August 13th along with Toots & The Maytals, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Hepcat, and others, and it got me thinking about the story that Derrick Morgan told me back in 1996 when he had a run in with a rude boy that resulted in the recording of one of his most classic songs, Rougher Than Rough. I found some information on this rude boy, named Busby, and so here is Derrick’s account of that episode, along with research on this nefarious character.

Here is the excerpt from my book, Ska: An Oral History: “I originally came out with a song called ‘Cry Tough’ and this rude guy who call himself Busby, he heard of it and he come to me one day. He used to come around often when we living in Greenwich Farm. They come to me and said, ‘Well I want you to make a song after me. You make sure to make a song off of me and I want it Friday.’ We were afraid of him. So I said, ‘What kind of song you want me to make of you,’ and he said, ‘You sing of me,’ and I said, ‘Okay, well I will make you one,’ and I go ahead and I write a song called ‘Rougher Than Rough’ and I go to Leslie Kong with it and I said ‘Leslie, this bad man threaten me to bring a song to him and I will write a song of him and to come back Friday,’ but Leslie Kong said, “Well we can’t release a song by Friday.’ He said, ‘Do you have the song ready?” I say yes and I used to play piano around there and I go around playing this song, ‘Tougher Than Tough’ that I wrote in Beverly’s one day and I said, ‘Ready. We will go to the studio Friday.’ And we cut the acetate on Friday and I took it to the guy and I said, ‘This is your song,’ and we’re having a dance right there in Greenwich Farm that night on West Avenue, and he was going to play it that night to hear its sound. So that night he took the song from me and he gave it to the disc jockey and said he don’t want to hear it play until twelve in the night. And at twelve o’clock in the night this rude boy went to the man and said, ‘Well okay, I would like you to play my song now.’ And when it reached the part that said, ‘Rougher than rough, tougher than tough, strong like lion, we are iron,’ he said, ‘Stop it there! Sell me a box of beer,’ and I give him a box of beer, and to play back the song. And then we go with him and the beer to the back and he crash it against the wall and said, ‘Iron!’ and get rough,” remembers Morgan.

The song featured the legendary vocalist Desmond Dekker on harmonies and Morgan spoke at the beginning of the song’s instrumentals, declaring:

You’re brought here for gun shooting

Ratchet using, and bomb throwings.

Now tell me rude boys, what have you say for yourselves?

The response came:

Your honor, rudies don’t fear.

The incident made Morgan’s song a hit and when it would play on jukeboxes around Jamaica, drinkers smashed their beers on the wall upon hearing the words, ‘Strong like lion, we are iron.’ The song was therefore banned from radio play.

And the song sparked one final act of violence, upon that rude boy Busby himself. “This guy that was getting out of hand now that song been made and him get worse, say rudies don’t fear. Every jukebox in Jamaica was playing it then. And this guy that I wrote the song for, he listen to this song that night and go on with his antics. That was a Friday night and he died on the Saturday night. They shoot him on Saturday night. He was bad. That song really really takes him to the graveyard,” says Morgan. Busby was shot in the head by a rival gang member while at a party.

 

Historian Clinton Hutton tells of Busby, spelled Buzzbee in his account, in his crucial article “Oh Rudie: Jamaican Popular Music and the Narrative of Urban Badness,” published in the Caribbean Quarterly, December 2010.

buzzbeea1buzzbeeabuzzbuzzbee

What’s In a Name? The Skatalites

Perhaps you have heard that the name “The Skatalites” came from a play on the words “ska” and “satellites.” It’s true. It was the height of the Space Age and satellites were in the news. The Soviets had launched the first satellite in orbit, Sputnik 1, in 1957. Others followed, including Sputnik 2 a month later with Laika the dog inside. In 1958, the U.S. launched their first satellite, Explorer 1, followed that same year by Sputnik 3 and the race was clearly on. In Jamaica, coverage of these satellites and subsequent satellites was substantial. It is no wonder that the members of what would become The Skatalites would have been influenced to name their group of musicians after the popular culture of the day. In an interview conducted by Journalist Claudia Junqueira with long-time Skatalites Manager Ken Stewart, he explains, “At the time the band started it was the beginning of the space exploration era and the Russians launched the Sputnik satellite and the Americans started launching their rockets, etc. Someone suggested the name Satellites but Tommy McCook said, ”No it’s ska we play so let’s call it Ska-talites.” Song titles were also often named for current events of the day. The band would record a tune in the studio and look for a name and many times would pick something relevant to what was going on in the world outside. Songs like Christine Keiler, Lee Harvey Oswald, President Kennedy, Nuclear Weapon, Fidel Castro, all had names talking about the news of the day, even thought they were instrumentals with no lyrics.”

The following is a sample of the some of the coverage of satellites in The Star which likely would have influenced Tommy and the others to name their band The Skatalites. Perhaps their eyes gazed in wonder upon these very articles. A romantic notion? Perhaps, but what is the story of ska without a bit of wonder?!

scan0010scan0008scan0009 editThe Star, August 24, 1961

Ronnie Nasralla’s First Dance Partner, Evelyn Andrade

skaaaaaaaaa

Before Ronnie Nasralla danced the ska in the iconic step-by-step guides with Jeannette Phillips (above), his dance partner was Evelyn Andrade, Miss West Indies. I recently spoke with the Honorable Arnold Foote, OJ, CD, JP at his home in Kingston who confirmed that Nasralla’s original dance partner was Andrade. “They were a dance couple,” he told me. “It was Evelyn first. She was gorgeous. W were very close friends. She was a fabulous dancer. Jeannette Phillips was a good dancer too, but she was after,” said Foote.

Numerous articles and advertisements confirm this. A Daily Gleaner article on November 7, 1953 gave a review of a show in which the two had danced. The article states, “Horace Forbes and his group of young artists, including Jamaica’s Beauty Queen Evelyn Andrade who appeared at the Carib Theatre on Wednesday night Nov. 18, by kind permission of Mr. Tilly Blackman, can be proud of themselves. They put on a neat and varied half hour’s show, that was a great deal better than most cabaret imports from the United States. . . . The stars of the show, Ronnie Nasralla and Evelyn Andrade then came on and danced ‘Harlem  Nocturne.’ It was a stylized version, very Dunhamish of blues and swing dancing and extremely effective. What a good interpretative dancer Andrade is becoming and how well Ronnie is supporting her.  The show ended, (happily it was not too long), with Evelyn Andrade, Ronnie Nasralla and Tony Verity dancing the Rhumba, the Conga, and the Mambo to the Buckcteers accompaniment. It was here that one realized how much better our local starlet dances than some of the Cubans, who have visited the island in the past couple of years. Ronnie supported Andrade well again, but Tony Verity though assiduously following the steps, does not really seem at home in this style of dancing. I wonder, if his metier does not lie rather in the easy up dancing manner of Jack Hulbert and Jack Buchanan, a type of dancing in which height helps rather than handicaps. This show, I gather, is going on shortly to the Glass Bucket Club, and deserves every encouragement.”

Evelyn Andrade went on to marry Tony Verity who became a famous Jamaican emcee. You may remember him from this ska film at the Sombrero Club featuring Byron Lee & the Dragonaires and the ska dancers. He is the host that starts the film. Tony Verity later went on to marry Byron Lee’s first wife, Edna, also known as Bibi, with whom Byron had three children.

The following is a short piece that appeared in JET magazine, May 26, 1955 that announced Evelyn Andrade’s marriage to Tony Verity.

andrade jet magazine may 26 1955

Evelyn Andrade also danced with Nasralla’s sister Jeanette with the Rowe Studio of Dancing doing ballet performances at the Carib Theatre. This sister Jeanette Nasralla is not to be confused with Jeannette Phillips who later became Jeanette Mills. Over the years, Evelyn Andrade and Ronnie Nasralla danced at a number of performances, including “Caramba” that featured Jeanette Nasralla, Tony Verity, Totlyn Jackson, and Lord Tickler. The following is an advertisement from this show from the Daily Gleaner on October 15, 1955.

andrade oct 15 1955

The following is a photo of this performance featuring Ronnie Nasralla and Evelyn Andrade from JET magazine, August 19, 1954.

andrade jet magazine aug 19 1954

Over the years, Ronnie Nasralla and Evelyn Andrade continued to perform together, including the performance below from March 26, 1955.

andrade march 26 1955

In 1959 they performed together in a performance of “Hey There” which also included Tony Verity, Jeanette Nasralla, and recording artist Sheila Rickards.

andrade dec 24 1959 andrade dec 9 1959

 

According to Josh Bailey, owner of the Veestarz website devoted to beauty pageants, Evelyn Andrade was the “first black admitted to a major international beauty contest. An accomplished dancer and swimmer, with a 36-24-26 figure, 18 year old Miss West Indies of 1954, Evelyn Andrade became the first colored woman admitted to a major white beauty contest in the United States. Her father was a Syrian Jew and her mother was a black native from Kingston. After the Miss Universe contest, Evelyn represented Jamaica in the ‘Miss Caribbean’ contest in Trinidad and won before an audience of 4,000.”

 

Evelyn Andrade died in May, 2013. The Jamaica Gleaner reported, “Former Miss Jamaica and Miss British Caribbean Evelyn Nalley has passed away. One of her daughters, Kim Merril, said Nalley had not been well for a few months. She described Nalley, who first came to national prominence as Evelyn Andrade, as a vivacious, happy woman. ‘She loved her family, she loved her country of Jamaica, though we hadn’t lived there for many years,’ Merril said. ‘It was always in the back of her heart and her mind to always go home.’ Nalley was married twice, first to popular Jamaican entertainer Anthony Verity and then to businessman Hayne Nalley. The former beauty queen moved to Puerto Rico with her second husband and their family before settling in Winter Haven, Florida, in 1972. Merril said her mother would be cremated. ‘She basically wanted her ashes to be put in the ocean,’ Merril said. ‘So that’s what we will be doing. The ocean was always close to her heart.’ In the September 9, 1954 issue of JET magazine, Nalley was featured in the cover story as ‘The beauty queen who snubbed Hollywood’.”

Here is a copy of that JET magazine that I found and purchased on ebay.

 

scan0001

scan0002

 

Here is a photo spread that the Daily Gleaner ran on July 23, 1954:

andrade gleaner

Here is an article from Hue Magazine, November 1954 that shows Evelyn Andrada hobnobbing, or flirting, with Tony Curtis!

andrade hue magazine november 1954

 

 

The photo and caption below from JET magazine July 22, 1954 also publicizes\ the Jamaican beauty.

andrade jet magazine july 22 1954

Bailey has posted a number of archival photos of Andrade, including the following:

andrade14 andrade13 andrade12 andrade11 andrade10 andrade9 andrade2 andrade3 andrade4 andrade5 andrade6 andrade7 andrade8 andrade1

Stranger and Patsy, Together on Stage Again!

I had the honor and pleasure of seeing Stranger Cole take the stage again with his performance partner Millicent “Patsy” Todd in Minneapolis on May 13th. I spent the entire weekend with this classy couple and enjoyed sharing a drink and hearing their stories of touring, recording, and even how to properly say, “Rahtid!” Stranger said his favorite song to perform with Patsy is “Yeah Yeah Baby,” while Patsy said her favorite duet is “Come Back.” Stranger is warm, vivacious, full of positive energy and Patsy is centered, calm, and full of strength. The two of them together are the perfect combination–in their music, their performance, and in their friendship. Below are some photos I took during the weekend and their performance. Click HERE TO SEE THEM PERFORM DOWN THE TRAIN LINE from this show, HERE TO SEE THEM PEFORM TONIGHT and HERE TO SEE PATSY PERFORM PATA PATA ROCKSTEADY. Also performing during the weekend event was Phil Chen of the Vagabonds who went on to perform guitar with such legends as The Who, Rod Stewart, Traffic, and countless others. Click HERE to read my prior post on Stranger Cole, and HERE to read my prior post about Patsy.

stranger and patsy

stranger and patsy2

stranger and patsy4

stranger

 

stranger2

phil chen3

phil chen6

Jamaican Rock–Big Sound on U.S. Pop Scene

ja on us

We may be aware that music from the United States in the 1950s and 1960s had a profound influence on Jamaican music, but sometimes we forget about the impact that Jamaican music had on United States popular music. Sure we know that Millie Small hit U.S. charts in 1964 (as she did charts all over the world) in conjunction with the promotion of ska at the World’s Fair that same year, but those were merely sparks that never really took flame. And sure reggae music grew in popularity through the passion and poignancy of Bob Marley in the late 1970s, and ska music became hugely popular in the 1990s (largely through the popularity of bands in the U.K.) but here is an article that shows that as early at 1973, Jamaican music was starting to pick up steam in the U.S. This article originally ran in Newsweek Magazine and was then published in the Daily Gleaner on February 17, 1973. It is an interesting look back at this critical time in history from the perspective of an American in the era.

The article, by Maureen Orth, states: Second only to the influence of American blacks in popular music have been the various beats emerging from south of the border; conga, calypso, rhumba, samba, bossa nova. And just as the samba was spawned in the favelas, the shantytown ghettos of Rio de Janeiro, the next big sound in American may well emerge from the zinc and tarpaper shanties of Jamaica. The music is called reggae (rhyme, with leg-gay), an infectious, up-tempo ‘body music’ meant to be danced to. Blaring from jukeboxes, record stores, transistors strapped to bicycles, and, from the travelling open-air- discotheques called “sound systems”, reggae’s pulsating rock beat saturates the island and propels a growing record industry that is making Jamaica the ‘in’ place for British and American stars to record. Reggae owes its origins to a fortuitous combination of calypso and the blues and, like the blues, reggae lyrics frequently record the suffering and anger born of a long history of slavery, poverty and powerlessness. “Reggae is a music of rebellion,” says Prince Buster, a Jamaican disc jockey and record producer. “It is the music of a people who were not given their fair share, a people who have to fight against society for their rights.” Just as often, however, the reggae beat is
sensual and happy, as much a means of escape as an instrument of protest.

SKA: Reggae and its two previous incarnations called “ska” then “rock steady” have been on British charts since the mid-’60s, and last year a reggae song, “Life Is Just For Living” by Jamaican artist, Ernie Smith, won the Tokyo International Song Contest. But relatively few reggae songs have been hits in the U.S. The first big one was in 1964 when Millie Small sang “My Boy Lollipop”, and lately the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” copied the rhythm track of a Jamaican hit. Perhaps the best known reggae song is Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion” and currently Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” has neared two million sales. Jamaica received the ultimate cache when the Rolling Stones came down to record their forthcoming album. Rock stars Leon Russell, Elton John and Cat Stevens are putting reggae rhythm tracks on their latest LP’s, and Harry Belafonte is putting out a number of pure reggae albums. U.S. record moguls are sending scouts to Jamaica but they often pen outside Jamaica. “Americans are amazed we can get so much bass on our records,” says Hugh Hendricks, a young reggae musician who’s just opened a studio in Brooklyn. “I really don’t know how we do it.”

DREAM: Reggae songs that are hits in the U.S., however, are usually too tame for Jamaica. But now the Wailers, one of reggae’s oldest groups, who bill themselves as the “Voice of the People” have just had their album “The Wailers” released here. And U.S. audiences can get a taste of the life that breeds the rhythm of reggae in Jamaica’s first feature film, “THE HARDER THEY COME”, starring one of Jamaica’s best-known reggae
singers, Jimmy Cliff. The film is the story of a country boy lured to Kingston, the capital, by the dream of making it in music, only to end up ripped off by a crooked record producer, forced to deal in ganja (pot) to keep from starving and ending up an infamous criminal. Like the character he plays, Cliff is a country boy who was never paid for his first record. Even today young Jamaican singers sometimes are forced to take a pittance for the chance to record one of their own songs, frequently receiving no royalties if it becomes a hit. Despite these obstacles, making a reggae record is one of the few ways a poverty-stricken Jamaican can make it, and lines of people patiently stand outside recording studios waiting for a producer to listen to their tunes.

Reggae is not popular with Jamaica’s upper and middle classes . These people who are English-oriented in their speech, dress and manners, find the music uncouth in its use of patios and a dangerous influence in the increasing social unrest and tension between the island’s poor and affluent. They worry because their children listen to the popular disc jockeys who talk about freedom and play reggae songs like this:
Well the oppressors are trying to keep me down
Trying to drive me underground
And they think that they have got the battle won.
I say forgive them Lord they know not what they’ve done
Cause as sure as the sun will shine
I’m gonna get my share now what’s mine.
The harder they come
The harder they fall, one and all

 

Tribute to Lord Tanamo

tanLord Tanamo and his rhumba box

The music world received the news that yet another Jamaica legend had recently passed away, and so Foundation Ska pays tribute to this musical master, Lord Tanamo, who died on April 12th at the age of 82 in Toronto, Canada. He was former member of the legendary Skatalites and the Jamaica Observer wrote of him:

The singer/percussionist, who was born Joseph Abraham Gordon, combined ska with mento and calypso on several of his songs including Japanese Invasion. He led the Skatalites on songs like Come Down and I’m In The Mood For Ska.

Musicologist Kingsley Goodison remembers Lord Tanamo as a very influential member of the Skatalites.

“In addition to having his own songs, he was a percussionist as well as a back-up vocalist. He acted as emcee for the band and introduced the songs before they were played,” Goodison told the Jamaica Observer.

Raised in Denham Town, West Kingston, Lord Tanamo was strongly influenced by the legendary Trinidadian calypsonian Lord Kitchener, who lived in Jamaica during the 1940s.

At the dawn of the 1970s, when calypso and mento waned among Jamaican artistes, he kept the beat alive with songs like Rainy Night In Georgia, originally done by Tony Joe White.

He migrated to Canada during the mid-1970s but continued to record singles and albums for producers in Jamaica, most notably Bunny Lee and Sonia Pottinger.

“He left and went to Canada with keyboardist Jackie Mittoo. They performed together and became a big hit there,” Goodison added.

In 2008, Lord Tanamo suffered a stroke that left him unable to talk.

tanamo 6 26 69 calypsoniansLord Tanamo and his Calypsonians, from the Daily Gleaner, June 26, 1969.

A 2002 article in NOW magazine out of Toronto includes words from Tanamo himself. The article states: The Kingston, Jamaica-born Joseph “Lord Tanamo” Gordon, who has made Toronto his home for over 35 years, helped create the sound we now know as ska by combining elements of calypso gleaned from Lord Kitchener with the lilting mento rhythms of his childhood.

“When I was about four years old,” recalls Tanamo from his home at Dufferin and Eglinton, “a fella, Cecil Lawes, came into my yard with a rumba box, which is similar to a marimba. I liked the sound from the first time I heard it. That’s where it all came from.

“Later, when I was a teenager, I began performing on the corner with Cecil and his rumba box. In the day I’d put on torn pants and a straw hat and sing calypso to hustle the tourists, and then at night I’d put on my suit and tie and sing ballads with a band. It was all just music to me.”

It was a few years later, in the spring of 64, that Tanamo would make his most notable mark in ska history, following a fateful recording session with some of Jamaica’s top young studio talent.

“When we did recordings, the musicians were usually paid individually, but for some reason on this date Mr. Khoury made out only one cheque payable to me. So I said, “Gentlemen, since we have this bulk payment, why don’t we form a band?’

“When they asked me what we should call it, I thought, well, we’re playing this way-out music and the Americans were sending satellites into space after the Russian Sputnik. So I said, “Let’s call it the Skatallites,’ because ska was the thing everyone was doing.”

Along with naming the Skatalites, Tanamo is also credited with being among the first of many popular Jamaican artists to take up residence in Toronto, where he opened the Record Nook, the city’s first record shop selling the exciting new music coming out of the Caribbean.

“I think it was in 64 that the Eaton’s company sent for me, through the Jamaican Tourism Board, to come to play some shows in Canada with the rumba box. When I arrived in Toronto, I liked the multicultural atmosphere and I guess I fell in love.

“It happened at a show,” he remembers wistfully. “I saw a young girl crying at the front and I asked if my music was making her sad. She told me that it was actually making her happy. For some reason, I married her, and I’ve been trapped here ever since.”

tanamo star
tanamoarticle

This article in the Jamaica Star, June 5, 1964, noted how Lord Tanamo had switched from calypso to ska. What a dapper young Tanamo! Handsome fellow! In case you don’t want to get out your glasses, here’s what the article says:

Big name in the world of ska today is Joseph Gordon, alias Lord Tanamo. The 28-year-old Kingtonian entered show business 13 years ago as a calypso singer appearing at leading hotels in the city with his small band before moving to the North coast to perform at hotels. After two years on the north Coast, where he appeared at such hotels as the Royal Caribbean, Tower Isle, Casa Montego and Casa Blanca, Tanamo began recording calypsoes, his first one being “Crinoline.” In 1962, however, he switched from calypso singing to ska and today his first ska recording, “Come Down” is still a favourite with radio, juke box and sound system fans. Tanamo now claims hit parade tunes “Iron Bar” and “Matty Rag,” both of which are old Jamaican folk songs done up in ska style. His popular “Ol’ Fowl” recently finished a long stay on the hit parade, but is still riding high in juke boxes and on sound systems. Apart from thrilling thousands of record fans, Lord Tanamo has long been a favourite with stage and nightclub audiences.

tanamo 9 14 57From the Daily Gleaner, 9-14-1957

Lord Tanamo is photographed below during the Legends of Ska Concert back in 2002 in Toronto. Tanamo is on the far right next to Johnny “Dizzy” Moore, Justin Hinds, and Stranger Cole.

Tanamo ska concert

And of course, here is the great Lord Tanamo here with the Skatalites, as one of the four vocalists for the legendary group. Lord Tanamo is to the right of Doreen Shaffer.

The Skatalites

From the Daily Gleaner, June 26, 1969: Calypso Group in Montreal–MONTREAL, June 16. Terres-des-Homes (or Man and his World) 1969 got off to a roaring start with a huge fireworks display on Thursday June 12th. Total attendance for the first three days was 297,000 visitors. Feature attraction at the Jamaica Pavilion this year is the Jamaican Group of Lord Tanamo and his Calypsonians. This group is already an early favourite and has drawn special attention with its unique Jamaican musical instrument— a rhumba box and a bamboo saxophone, with a fork and grater occasionally thrown in. When asked about the durability of his saxophone, Wilbert Stephenson replied that he keeps it in a cool place to avoid possible splitting of the bamboo due to heat and as an added precaution he brought an extra one with him. The group will play daily at the Pavilion until the Fair closes in September. Personnel of the group is as follows: Lord Tanamo (Joseph Gordon), guitar; Carlton Lewis, maracas and bongo drum; Cecil Laws (rhumba box); Cecil Largie (congo drum); Wilbert Stephenson (bamboo saxophone).

tanamo3

Mike Garnice has substantial information on Lord Tanamo and his mento career which can be found HERE

So raise a Red Stripe in toast to Lord Tanamo, and enjoy these fine chunes from Mr. Gordon!

Iron Bar

Come Down

Dash of the Sunshine

Watch him perform in 2003 at the Glastonbury Festival with Lester Sterling, Lloyd Knibb, and of course, Ken Stewart on keyboard and band manager for decades! I’m in the Mood for Ska

One of my favorites, a tribute that Lord Tanamo did as a tribute for Don Drummond, Big Trombone

tanamo skatalites ad 6 21 64From the Daily Gleaner, June 21, 1964.

Prince and Jamaica and Ska

prince notes

You might think that the only Prince popular in Jamaica is Prince Buster or maybe Prince Count Miller or Prince Jazzbo. However, THE Prince, the artist-once-again-no-longer-formerly-known-as Prince, the recently deceased Prince, was also popular in Jamaica, as he was all over the world. Countless Jamaican artists have included Prince songs in their live concerts, and the Jamaican press has followed Prince’s career throughout the decades, including his induction in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, his Grammy Awards, his perfume for women, and other events and news.

Kingston movie houses screened Prince’s movie “Purple Rain” when it first came out and then periodically over the years that followed.

prince dec 20 1984

One of many advertisements for the screening of Purple Rain, from the Jamaica Gleaner, Dec. 17, 1984.

Jamaican musicians were inspired by Prince’s genius, and in an article in today’s Jamaica Observer, “Wayne Armond, the former front man and guitarist for the ‘70s reggae band Chalice, said he was rendered speechless when his wife informed him of the 57-year-old musician’s passing. ‘I dropped my wife off at work and was making my way back home when she called and told me Prince had died… I was heartbroken. Honest to God, that is the only way I can describe how I feel about his passing. You would not understand, but Prince is my favourite artiste,’ he told Splash. For Armond, Prince’s music represented a new, fresh sound for the time. But being a fellow guitarist meant that these two had much more in common. ‘A lot of people don’t recognise what a monster guitar player Prince really is. The popularity of his songs and performances really overshadows his tremendous skills on the guitar. I have watched clip after clip of him playing and it is just amazing to behold. I remember watching him guest at an event with a number of other great musicians and when they played My Guitar Gently Weeps. The only way I can describe his guitar solo for that performance is… sheer artistry.’ Prince penned classics including Purple Rain, When Doves Cry, 1999 and Nothing Compares To You. Music aside, the late artiste also captured Armond with his determination and the forthright nature he displayed from the very start of his career. ‘I remember hearing him as a 19-year-old, he took his early music to a record company. When the music execs said, ‘We like it but we will find someone to produce’ Prince just asked back for his demo tapes and left. I respected him from that day in the same way I respect Muhammed Ali for his humanitarian work. It the same way I feel about what happened when he was having troubles with his record company and he just changed his name to The Artist formerly known as Prince in order to release his new music… Just great,’ said Armond. He believes like the music of the greats Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Prince’s legacy will never die. ‘Every Jamaican musician should look into this man’s music. His work should be studied by students at the Edna Manley College for his compositions, lyrical content and musicianship.’”

Of course, there is a reggae version of many of Prince’s songs, including the album, “Purple Reggae,” which features a number of Prince tunes covered by various artists like Ali Campbell of UB40 and Sinead O’Connor.

prince

From the Jamaica Gleaner, Nov. 18, 2014.

But I think my favorite connection between Prince and Jamaica comes in this little editorial that was submitted to the Jamaica Gleaner on July 9, 1987 that complained about the lyrics of Prince’s music and the popularity of North American music.

prince july 9 1987

Ska has a long tradition of covering other songs, and so here is a collection of Prince songs in the ska and reggae genre. And could it be more appropriate that the links are purple?!

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, “Nothing Compares 2 U”

Ali Campbell of UB40, “Purple Rain”

Potato 5, “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”

 

Walt Jabsco and Mircosoft

emoji

An article in Newsweek by Joe Veix on March 30th revealed the meaning of the strange floating businessman emoji and it turns out that this little-used character actually has its roots in ska! Turns out that the emoji has evolved from a version that Microsoft typography employee Vincent Connare created the character for a font in the early 1990s called Webdings, a relative of Wingdings–both fonts that utilized little pictures instead of letters and numbers.

emoji2

Veix writes, “Webdings included 230 images, culled from when Microsoft’s ‘team of iconographers traveled the world asking site designers and users which symbols, icons and pictograms they thought would be most appropriate for a font of this kind.’ This included useful things like a disembodied eye . . . ” and it also included the levitating business man icon, which looked like this:emoji3Connare says that his character invention was inspired by, you guessed it, Walt Jabsco. “After deciding to incorporate Webdings in the browser, the Internet Explorer team and Connare’s manager, Simon Daniels, drew up a list of symbols to design, mostly stuff that might look good on a website in 1997. Connare went down the list, selecting the ones he was interested in. One option immediately stood out. ‘I had a Specials Japanese import LP, and I saw one of the keywords was “jump” so thought it would be good to make a jumping, pogoing man, he said. ‘The style of the 2 Tone guy was black on white, and it was graphic, so it was easy to make something like it into a font,'” wrote Veix.

 

emoji4

This character, Walt Jabsco, is the creation of Jerry Dammers and was inspired by Peter Tosh on the cover of the Wailing Wailers album, and as my good friend and member of the killer Minneapolis ska band The Prizefighters Aaron Porter points out, the Wailing Wailers cover was inspired by a photo of Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions! So Walt Jabsco, and thus the levitating businessman emoji, is actually inspired by Fred Cash!

TheWailers-TheWailingWailersimpressions

I have written before on the ska connection between The Impressions and Curtis Mayfield HERE so have a read, but in the meantime, here’s some more that I’ve written on Walt Jabsco and The Specials in this excerpt from my book, Ska: An Oral History:

“[Jerry] Dammers, an illustrator from his days at art school, designed a logo to go along with their new look [in order to better market the band, as suggested by their manager, Bernie Rhodes]. He drew dapper man in a suit and pork-pie hat, very similar to the rude boy look of the 1960s Jamaica, known as Walt Jabsco, a moniker he assigned from one of his own used bowling shirts. The illustration was based upon a photo of Peter Tosh that is the cover of the Wailing Wailers album. Walt Jabsco became the mascot for English ska.”

The levitating business man is also “pogoing,” according to the emoji originator. Pogoing also has an origin related to ska! Oh ska, is there anything you can’t inspire and create?!

This is an excerpt from my book, Ska: The Rhythm of Liberation, in yet another shameless plug!

“The skank during the British era was similar in many ways to its Jamaican predecessor, but it was also different because it combined elements of other musical genres and the frustrations of the dancers. Instead of merely swinging the arms back and forth, crossing them at times as they did in the 1960s in Jamaica, the British form of the skank incorporated balled-up fists, perhaps in response to the anger of post-punk times. The British skank also incorporated more verical bounce, probably integrated the pogo, the punk dance that may have been invented by Sid Vicious himself, whereas the Jamaican version often left the feet completely stationary.”

To read the Newsweek article in its entirety, click HERE.

Pata Pata Patsy

patsy

So thrilled to see that Pasty Todd will be performing with Stranger Cole, her longtime vocal partner after Derrick Morgan, in Minneapolis May 13-15th accompanied by Phil Chen, Dennis Sindrey, and the Prizefighters! I will be there for sure! More information on this show is located here. So today let’s celebrate that talented woman who was one of the few, along with Millie Small, Yvonne Harrison, Hortense Ellis, and a small handful of others, to break the gender barrier in the 1960s. I found the lovely photo above of Millicent “Patsy” Todd in a 1969 issue of Swing Magazine in the National Library of Jamaica archives in Kingston this past February. And the following is the chapter of my book, Songbirds: Pioneering Women in Jamaican Music, which I have written on Patsy, which you can purchase here:

Pata Pata Patsy:  Millicent Todd

Millicent Todd was just a teenage girl when ska hit the town. She was born on September 23, 1944, grew up in Fletcher’s Land in West Kingston and was Prince Buster’s next door neighbor. She attended All Saints School and left at age 14. Although she wasn’t raised in a particularly musical home, and the Catholic Church she attended didn’t have much to offer in the way of music since the program was still presented in Latin in those days, she did listen to the music coming from America. “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,” she says.

Her mother, Miss Kitty, realizing Millicent’s talent, helped to get her daughter’s start. Miss Kitty approached Derrick Morgan on Orange Street and told him of her daughter’s talent although today Patsy says she has only heard the story from Morgan and didn’t know the details. “Derrick told me the story because I didn’t know anything about it. He said he saw this woman and she told him she had a daughter that could sing. And I saw this guy came to my gate, knock on my gate. I’m looking at him and he’s saying he’s Derrick Morgan, and I say to myself, ‘So?’ And he said, ‘I heard you can sing,’ and I’m looking at him wondering what he’s talking about. And he said, ‘Could you sing something for me?’ and I said, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘I just want to hear something.’ And I did. But as far as I’m concerned, I didn’t know who this guy was, what he wanted. Somebody just come appear to you, telling you he hear you can sing and if you would do a song with him. And at first I was kind of, something ain’t right here. But then he told me a story about another artist that the song was about, and this guy, I hated him, still do. And when he said that, I was ready to sing that song. And I did. And we have this producer, Duke Reid, God rest his soul, a nice man, and he start shooting up the place. My God! I was so scared! I ran! And they said, ‘No! That’s a good thing! When he hears something that he likes that’s going to make a hit, this is what he does!’ So that experience was great for me and after that it was history. The song was ‘Love Not To Brag,’” says Patsy. The man who inspired the song was Eric “Monty” Morris who grew up with Morgan and was known to be boastful. He and Morgan were vocal competitors. Millicent recalls the scene after the take, “We have this producer, Duke Reid, God rest his soul, a nice man, and he start shooting up the place. My God! I was so scared! I ran! And they said, ‘No! That’s a good thing! When he hears something that he likes that’s going to make a hit, this is what he does!’ So that experience was great for me and after that it was history.”

patsy1Derrick and Patsy in their early years.

            Millicent was young and the music industry could be an unkind environment, especially with so much skilled talent, professional musicians in the studio and producers wanting to get one take down on acetate for play at the sound system days later. “It was hard. Very hard,” says Millicent. “I was 15, 16 years old. And it was hard because you didn’t have a say. I didn’t get the chance to go to rehearsal and things like that. I would go to the studio and my partner would tell me, ‘This is so-and-so and so-and-so,’ and I would write it down, and I would sing from the paper, that was it. I don’t remember what it was, what I did or how much record I did. I didn’t have a say, to say to the musicians, ‘Would you play this,’ or “Would you play that.’ They would kill me. You just take what they give you and that’s it. The musicians that we had were great musicians. I think they could play with anyone in this entire world. They knew music, they knew what they were doing. They were absolutely fantastic. But they were very egotistical. You know, it was either just them or nothing. The problem when you have a band that every musician in that band could be the leader, it’s very hard. That’s how great they were,” Patsy says.

patsy2Millicent Todd

            She was young, innocent, naïve, but her talent transcended. Graeme Goodall recalls her work in the studio. “I loved her dearly. She was a very nice person, very pleasant to work with, very polite. She was not so much a leader, but she was very very good and she, like most of the vocalists of the day, understood that this was her big break,” Goodall says. Derrick & Patsy continued to record hit after hit as a duo, including “Feel So Fine,” “Are You Going to Marry Me,” “Crying in the Chapel,” and countless others. Perhaps the most well-known song the duo recorded was “Housewife’s Choice” in 1962 for producer Leslie Kong. This song was originally named “You Don’t Know How Much I Love You,” but Marie Garth, legendary radio host, had so many housewives call in to the station to request the tune that she renamed it and future pressings reflected this name change. The song also became popular in the United Kingdom as West Indian immigrants played the tune which was released on the Island Records label. Derrick & Patsy were a hit. They were the perfect boy-girl duo singing sweet songs of love and romance. They were so big that when popular American artists came to perform in Kingston, so too did Derrick & Patsy as part of the Jamaican spectacular. They performed at shows with Ray Charles, Ben E. King, and Sammy Davis Junior. Derrick would record with a number of female vocalists in duets including Gloria Franklin (who also performed as Gloria & the Dreamlets), Naomi Phillips (who also recorded with Doreen Shaffer), Hortense Ellis, Paulette Morgan (Derrick’s sister), Yvonne Harrison (also called Yvonne Adams), and Jennifer & the Mohawks (Jennifer Jones).

patsy3Derrick Morgan performs in Chicago in 2013. Photo by Heather Augustyn.

            When Derrick Morgan left to go to England to try his hand at success overseas, Patsy was approached by another singer with the offer to perform duets. She recalls, “Stranger [Cole] came to talk to me. He said that Duke Reid sent him and he said he wanted to do some record and the only way that Duke Reid would record him if I sang with him. And it kind of hit me off guard because Derrick was in England, and I said to him, ‘I don’t know about that, I have to think about it,’ and then I saw this guy really needed to do this. He believed he could make himself better and do something that he love and getting paid for it, you know, a charge was in him. And I said okay, I tell him yes. And that’s how Stranger Cole and I came about.” One of their biggest hits was the song, “When I Call Your Name,” which they recorded for Duke Reid. Other classics include, “Down the Train Line,” “Yeah Yeah Baby,” “Give Me the Right,” “ Love Divine,” and plenty more. The tunes were also classic boy-girl duets, inviting and harmonious. Most were recorded in 1964 for Sonia Pottinger and Duke Reid. Stranger remembers his days with Patsy. “Mr. Reid was the one who asked me to sing with her. He told me to go to her and asked me to sing with her. So ‘When I Call Your Name’ we recorded and we do many many more songs together. She was not shy, she was much braver than I. She make hit record before I do, with Derrick Morgan, so she was a more limelighted artist than I was. I think that was a blessing for me to have a lady with more hit songs before me. I am very lucky to sing with her, and I think she is very lucky to sing with me,” says Stranger.

            Patsy wasn’t just a duo artist. She was also an artist in her own right—Queen Patsy. At a time when women weren’t doing much solo work at all, Patsy paved the way for strong female vocalists. One of these tunes, “A Man is a Two Face,” is not a ska or rocksteady song, but true to the American R&B tradition with soulful vocals, music by Lynn Taitt & the Jets. The lyrics offer advice from a mother to a daughter that she shares with other women about how a man will smile and sweet talk but leave you singing the blues in the night. It was not the submissive songs of innocent love she sang with Stranger and Derrick. It was a song of empowerment and knowledge and sisterhood. It was Patsy’s take on “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” both in sound and in spirit. She was physically without a man by her side as in her duos, and she, as a solo artist, was all woman. Her voice transforms in this song from her duos. She is no longer the little teenager—she is informed, guiding, warning. The flip side of this recording on Sonia Pottinger’s Gay Feet label is “It’s So Hard Without You” where Patsy sings that there is nothing she can do without her man, so what do we make of this paradox? Certainly these songs reflect the emotions women feel in relationships—the phases and complexities.

patsy5Stranger Cole performs in Chicago in 2012. Photo by Heather Augustyn.

            Two of the other solo songs that Patsy recorded for Producer Sonia Pottinger were “Fire in Your Wire” and “Pata Pata Rock Steady” which were unique in their content. “Fire in Your Wire” is a soca tune originally written by Calypso Rose of Tobago, another pioneering woman, whose lyrics are the typical sexual innuendo of calypso and soca, but certainly not typical of those sung by a female up to this point. “Pata Pata Rock Steady” was also a song written by a female artist in 1957 by Dorothy Masuka for singer Miriam Makeba, both South African artists. “Fire in Your Wire” and “Pata Pata Rock Steady” were songs that showed Patsy’s take-charge side and celebrated the creativity of other women. Of “Fire in Your Wire,” Patsy says, “I wanted to prove a point that I could do other styles. I would take chances to see what I could do. I never had a say in any of the songs I sang with the duets, so this was an opportunity to try different things.”  “Pata Pata” was not the only Miriam Makeba song Patsy covered. She also recorded “The Retreat Song,” also titled Jikele Maweni, which had a distinct African feel, especially since it was sung in the Xhosa (KOH-suh) language whose lyrics tell of a vicious stick fight. Not the typical teenage love song.

Patsy traveled overseas to share her talent, to the U.S. with Byron Lee & the Dragonaires and to Belize. She sang on over 100 recordings. But she left it all behind in 1969, as the music left ska and rocksteady behind. She simply grew tired of the industry and moved to New York to start a new life. Since the Legends of Ska Concert, organized by Brad Klein in Toronto in 2002, Patsy has occasionally returned to the stage to perform, alongside her duo partners, Stranger and Derrick Morgan, as well as on her own.