The Sombrero Club

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I haven’t posted in the past week or so because I have been entrenched in writing my biography of Byron Lee, literally spending hours everyday at my keyboard surrounded by notebooks and newspapers. I decided to refresh my spirit with what was likely about my 52nd time viewing the “This is Ska” documentary from 1964, hosted by Tony Verity and found on YouTube (clip seen above), and I realized I had recently come across an article on the site of this historically crucial film–The Sombrero Club. So here, from the Jamaica Gleaner on November 20, 2005, is the text from that article entitled, “The nightclubs of yesteryear: Sombrero: rustic, intimate,” written by the prolific journalist Mel Cooke.

Just below the famous ‘Four Roads’ intersection of Molynes and Waltham Park Roads in St. Andrew, a long grey wall marks the first right turn. There was a time when 1 Pitter Avenue was not so drab and businesslike, when the sights and sounds of merriment carried all the way to one of the capital city’s major intersections, long before the commerce of construction replaced the commerce of merriment. And although it carried a Mexican name, the senors and senoritas who stepped inside the Sombrero nightclub did it in true Jamaican style.

“When you stay out at Four Roads you can look down and see Sombrero and hear the music. If you climb up on the wall you look down into Sombrero,” said bass player Jackie Jackson, who was once a member of Tommy McCook and the Supersonics and now plays with Toots and the Maytals. Looking over was one thing;
jumping into the fun without paying was quite another matter. “Nobody naa beat the gate,” Jackson said, remembering an entrance fee of 50 shillings. “It was a mature audience.”

It was also an audience that demanded a certain quality of entertainment and, in the height of the band era the cream of the cream played there. “It was one of the premier dance halls for bands, live music,” says Jasper Adams, a regular at The Sombrero. “If you capture the image of the dance hall in London at the time, you get an idea of what it was like.”

The Sombrero was owned by the Young brothers, one of them. Owen, is now reportedly in the USA.

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Putting a “1966 onwards” stamp on the heyday of The Sombrero, Adams named Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, as well as Kes Chin and the Souvenirs, among the many bands that played there. But there was one that owned the joint on a Friday night: Carlos Malcolm and the Afro-Caribbean Rhythms, with Winston ‘The Whip’ Williams as the MC. He remembers Derrick Harriott, as part o f the Jiving Juniors, singing there.

Winston Blake of Merritone also notes the presence of The Mighty Vikings, with Sonny and Victor Wong on lead vocals, and a very powerful Tomorrow’s Children, who “were a great show band. They played a lot of Chicago.”

“The Sombrero came up when the Bournmouthe (in East Kingston) sort of got down. It was the new uptown place,” Adams said. “The lively era was when you had to park on Moresham Avenue.”

“Normally the place would ripen from Monday to Sunday, but Friday night was dance night,” Adam s said. On Sundays there was jazz. put on by Ken Peart, with people like Billy Cooke on trumpet,  Thaddy Mowatt on bass and Aubrey Adams on piano.

With a raised bandstand over the dance floor, performers got a bird’s eye view of the audience they were playing to. Whether jazz or dance (or in the later days of the club, the sound system of Merritone Music), the decor of Sombrero was standard and, for the time, very different. “It no run down or mash up,” Jackie Jackson emphasised, terming it as what would now be boo, and there were four covered edges around the dance floor. “It was square, like a carton box,” Jackson said. And along with the rusticity was a certain feature that made it even more notable. “The club dark!” Jackson said, laughing. “That was what the club was famous for. It just dark and nice.”

As Winston Blake of Merritone puts it, The Sombrero was “extremely intimate”. He ”also recalls an outstanding feature of the decor which was really natural. There was an almond tree at the right of the entrance, which was on Molynes Road. “Merritone took the last lap,” Blake said of The Sombrero. “We used to play there midweek and weekends. It was the place to go on a Saturday night. It was a dress-up place, suits. Those days when you went to a night-club you wore a jacket. We are talking about the late 1960s, about 1965 to 1972.”

He said Merritone actually played there till the days of the Sombrero as a nightclub came to an end. “For us, Sombrero was a lot of daylight sessions, 4:00 a.m., 5:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m. At some of these sessions breakfast was served,” he said. “We called it the mid-week and breakfast club,” he said, chuckling.

There was a particular item that Sombrero was renowned for, which was not necessarily breakfast fare. Their chicken was fried, fabulous and famous. Jackie Jackson equates the clientele in the club to the other great place for bands at the time, the Glass Bucket in Half-Way Tree, “At the same time the Glass Bucket used to bring out the upscale people, Sombrero used to bring out the little bit down,” he said.

And, eventually, it was bringing out fewer and fewer of them. “It just did its time. We notice it start getting less and less, till we just stop going there,” Jackson said. ‘That is Jamaica. Everything is just for a while.”

Even after it closed as a nightclub, The Sombrero continued as a lounge until, Adams said, Keith Young Chin took over and started making paper cups there. And they were not cups that the happy people were drinking out of, at least, not at 1 Pitter Avenue. Today, motorists whiz past without even a glance at where The Sombrero once welcomed the party people, but somehow even if history does not exactly repeat itself it comes close. Hot Mondays, what dance hall has now evolved into, is held relatively close by.

Incidentally, it is also the Sombrero Club at which Margarita appears in this tourist postcard of limbo dancers. She is the one on the back right in the blue bikini top with yellow and red ruffle bottoms. Here are two versions of that iconic postcard.

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Prince Buster Alleges Discrimination from Radio Stations

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These two articles from the Daily Gleaner in 1969 reveal allegations of discrimination from Prince Buster against the two radio stations in Jamaica, RJR and JBC. Buster complains that his records are banned from airplay, and the response reveals the reasons why in addition to an explanation of how records are selected for play. They are an interesting insight into one part of the Jamaican music industry in an era gone by.

First, here is the first article, the allegation from Prince Buster published on January 24, 1969, followed by the transcription for easy reading.

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THE EDITOR, Sir:— Kindly allow me the opportunity through your widely read column to bring to the  attention of the public a situation which exists with regards to the promotion of my records over the radio stations. I must say that it is a situation which is causing me great concern and makes me wonder just where does the Jamaican stand in this society.

It seems to me that there are some agencies operating in this island to rid me of whatever deserved publicity I might obtain in my field of an entertainer as invariably my records are banned from our airwaves. And these records are neither slanderous, nor lewd, nor are they aimed at holding any individual to ridicule in the society.

Last year alone nearly one dozen of my records were banned from our two radio stations (as usual no reasons were given by the authorities for this action) and these included Ten Commandments which enjoyed high rating in the United States of America and the United Kingdom (not that I am saying we should pattern what these countries do).

Mr. Editor, without being immodest, I must say that I have contributed a great deal to the promotion of Jamaican music both in the USA and Britain, and my records have always been well received in those countries. But from the latest action it would appear that I have no honour in my own country.

The latest action directed against me concerns a release ‘Pharoah [sic.] House Crash’ which bears stark similarity to the No. 1 song ‘Everything Crash’ with the exception that the words Pharoah [sic.] House are substituted for Everything. This record has also been banned and no reason given.

I cannot help feeling, sir, that some personal attack has been aimed at me, for reasons unknown to me. And it makes me feel that Jamaicans should only pay lip service to those in high places who keep on labouring on the fact that  Jamaicans must be patriotic and stay here and build the country. I could quite possibly have pursued my field in another country, maybe with success, but I have chosen to remain here. But these latest actions make me start thinking of calling it quits.

I think I owe it to the public who has supported me down the years to let them know why they have not been
hearing my sounds on the airwaves and I thank you for allowing me space to state my case.

I am, etc.
Cecil (Prince Buster) Campbell
Orange Street,
Kingston,
January 10, 1969

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The Daily Gleaner published this response the following month on February 6, 1969 in an article written by “W.M.” titled, “Prince Buster records: Radio stations say no discrimination.” The article reads:

In the letter to the Editor on January 24, recording artist Prince Buster made the accusation that the two local radio stations were intent on stopping him from “eating bread” by not playing his records.

As a result of this I visited Buster at his record mart on Orange Street and then made rounds of both radio stations with him.

At the end of the investigations on Tuesday, January 28, I had discovered that only three of Buster’s records — “Ten Commandments”, “Pharaoh House Crash” and “Walking up Orange Street” — have been banned from the “airwaves” and that the radio stations said they are willing to play his other records, if they are requested by listeners.

However, Buster maintains “somebody up there doesn’t like me because they think that as an advocate of the Black Muslim religion in Jamaica I am subversive and, the only thing they can do against me is to advise the authorities at the stations not to play my records”.

Mr. Hugh Wong, Programme Director of Radio Jamaica gave reasons why Buster’s three records were banned. Mr. Mike Bukht, Director of Programmes at the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation also explained, like Mr Wong, how the records for the various programmes are selected. Of RJR’s reasons for banning for three Buster tunes Hush Wong stated that “Ten Commandments” was irreverent to the sacred Ten Commandments. “Walking up Orange Street” was a commercial for Buster’s record mart and “Pharoah [sic.] House Crash” because Pharoah [sic.] sounds a little like Shearer on the record. Mike Bukht was not in Jamaica at the time of the banning of “Ten Commandments”, but gave similar reasons why the JBC imposed their ban on “Walking up Orange Street” and “Pharaoh House Crash”.

At both stations, the “Prince” and I were informed how the Hit Parade charts are compiled and how the records for the programmes are selected. New records reach the stations each week and on a particular day, the disc jockeys meet to assess the records they think are good enough to make the “Top 30”.

Hugh Wong told us that if a particular record does not meet the approval of the disc jockeys, the record is played on the air for listeners to judge. The record is then billed according to the rating derived from the request of radio listeners. He added that sometimes records which are rejected by disc jockeys at auditions
receive so many requests that they make it to the top of the charts.

Mr. Wong stated that no one is trying to “stop Buster from eating bread”, but most of his records fail to get a popular vote from the disc jockeys and when they are played for radio listeners, they are not requested.

He pointed out the fact that if there was a “deliberate act” not to play Buster’s records, “Dark end of the Street” would not have made it to the “No. 1 spot” some time ago.

The “Top 30” is compiled by the radio stations from the returns made by the record marts.

At the JBC, Mike Bukht and Librarian Hartley Cousins told us that nine record marts — four in Kingston, two in Montego Bay, two in Ocho Rios and one in Mandeville — are contacted each week to find out the records which are most popular. From the averages of these returns, the records are rated and the “Top 30” chart is compiled.

At RJR, Hugh Wong also backed up his case that there was no discrimination by the station against the “Prince” by calling a couple of record marts. The answer was that Buster’s records are not very popular. And consequently, said Mr. Wong, they are not played frequently on the radio.

Buster told me that he is frustrated with how his records are treated by the radio stations. So, he has decided to concentrate on “suggestive records” which find a ready market. However he will continue to make a few releases which he hopes will conform with the required standard for the “airwaves”.

His latest record, which is backed by the Beatles “Ob-La-di Ob-la-da” has the same melody as “Little Drummer Boy” and is not only the top request at every party, but has attained island-wide popularity in under two weeks. But the title rules it out for broadcast — and publication. Buster is very serious about his decision that by singing suggestive tunes, he can make it to the top rung of record sales on the local market.

Buster said “Year after year I have lost a lot of money on the productions of my records because they are not played by the radio stations. Last year I had to dump over 30,000 copies of my releases because the
public was not familiar with them so there were no requests for them from the record marts.”

Speaking of the newest of his creations, he said “This record is such a hit with the public that I have decided to concentrate on suggestive tunes so that I can stay alive!”

Like the Mighty Sparrow, many times Calypso King of Trinidad, Prince Buster can “make it” by recording suggestive tunes. However, if the wants his tunes to be heard on radio and thus get more popularity than they have been receiving, he will have to feature a different slant.

–W.M.

 

What are your thoughts? Do you think Prince Buster was justified in his accusations? Or do you think that the radio stations had a valid reason for keeping his songs from airplay? What do you think of Prince Buster’s solution, to become more suggestive in his lyrics to obtain more popularity? Would this work? Did it?

Tribute to Totlyn Jackson

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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.

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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

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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.

 

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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:

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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.

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

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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”