Prince Buster Takes on the Beatles?!

beatles

Daily Gleaner, March 23, 1964

I do love me a good Prince Buster laugh, because he is such a character. He cracks me up with his bravado, his machismo, his brazen balls.

I blogged a few weeks back about his time as a “boxer” and it still makes me chuckle that Prince Buster has even been called a boxer, but it’s because he is such a masterful marketing guru, for himself! In interview after interview he tells journalists and fans that he began as a boxer. He boxed one round in his entire life, and that round was rigged for him to win! Read the blog post for details on that humorous tale.

I also blogged recently about his stirring the pot in the U.S. with other artists who were at the Peppermint Lounge to promote the ska dance and sound. Check out that blog too.

His Judge Dread songs are nothing short of classic. And the whole feud with Derrick Morgan is legendary. Prince Buster’s claims of being the first to invest ska, the first to play ska, the first to create the word ska, etc. just make me smile–really smile, not a sneer, because to me, Prince Buster epitomizes the stick fighting culture that is so much a part of ska. Is there no one who better characterizes the theater of ska than Prince Buster?

So then, without further ado, here is the text of the article. The headline speaks volumes though. And if anyone knows what became of this claim detailed below, please share, as I’d love to know.

Prince Buster May Tackle the Beatles

Prince Buster, pioneer of the Jamaican sound now known in London as Blue Beat, returned to the island by air on Monday. He had been in London for several weeks, during which he appeared on BBC-TV and ITV, singing his Blue Beat Hit Song, “Wash Wash.”

This was the singer’s fourth visit to London, where he now has an agent, in charge of promoting his records and arranging future personal appearances.

Buster says he plans to return to London in May to do more television and stage shows. He plans to take along a quintet of Jamaican musicians who have backed him in his recordings.

One of the projects which may materialise then for the group is to appear opposite the Beatles at the London Palladium, according to Prince Buster.

White Rum Raymond: Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae Violin

"White Rum" Raymond, or Raymond Young, at 82 years old.

“White Rum” Raymond, or Raymond Young, at 82 years old.

When we think of harmonica, we think of Charley Organaire. When we think of melodica, we think of Augustus Pablo. When we think of violin, we think of “White Rum” Raymond. These are the artists who really were the only ones doing something a little different, a little special, a little spicy with Jamaican music by taking on an instrument that was not a typical piece of brass and they made it their own.

 

We know plenty about Augustus Pablo and in fact, his record shop, Rockers International Records, is a wonderful store still located on Orange Street that I had the privilege to visit last year. We know plenty about Charley Organaire and in fact he just performed last weekend in Chicago with Susan Cadogan. He lives in Evanston, Illinois. But I always wondered about “White Rum” Raymond. Who was this nicknamed violinist whose stringed melodies peppered The Paragons’ The Tide is High with such catchy skill that even a bombshell like Debbie Harry couldn’t distract us from its absence in her version? I decided to do a little digging.

 

I found that “White Rum” Raymond’s real name was Raymond Young and he was a member of the Jamaica Military Band in 1959, although I’m not sure for how long he served. He played a variety of Christmas carols on “amplified violin” at a holiday concert at Hope Gardens in December of that year. He also performed “electric violin” at the newly opened Queen of Hearts Club on 28 Oxford Terrace in Kingston in 1964. He performed for the Paragons on The Tide is High which was recorded for Duke Reid in 1967.

 

But here is a bit more from the man himself from the Jamaica Star, June 9, 2012 in a story by Rasbert Turner:

 

Raymond ‘Paganilli’ Young is 82 years old, still plays the violin, and says he enjoys it.

 

“I have played with John Holt and a host of other artistes and bands. I could have done better, but it was not to be,” Young said.

 

The senior musician was spotted near Rodney’s Arms playing a sweet rendition of Gregory Isaac’s Night Nurse. He then segued into Carpenter, Seven Spanish Angels and a slew of other popular hits.

 

It was indeed a remarkable feat as the violin was being played with a piece of steel instead of a bow.

 

“All I really need is a bow for the violin as I am just doing the best that I can as I am still enjoying the music, ” Young said.

 

He told THE PORTMORE STAR he lived in America from 1950 to 1956 but was sent home as his wife said he was a “girls man.”

 

The octogenarian, who said he has a daughter, said he sees music as life. “I played with the Merry Knights band and we usually enjoyed the music of the day,” Young said.

 

Young was born at 29 Regent Street, Kingston. He said he has also played for Martin Luther King and the Mighty Sparrow.

 

“I was part of the celebration of Jamaica’s Independence in 1962 where I played,” he beamed.

 

In earlier days, Young said he was among many musicians who would gather at Chancery Lane and discuss music. He said in those days, Prince Buster, Chris Blackwell, and Coxone Dodd were the big men in the business.

 

“I have an electric violin, so I get work. But although I love the violin, it is still not fully appreciated locally, but it is my instrument,” Young said.

 

If you have any more information on “White Rum” Raymond, including how he got that fantastic nickname or any memories, as well as any shout-outs for other unique JA instrumentalists, comment below.

Mutt & Jeff Sound System

Mutt & Jeff

 

The Mutt & Jeff Sound System wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill sound systems in Kingston during the 50s and 60s. This sound system was vital to the growth of Jamaican music for a number of reasons. Not only was the sound system itself constructed by Alpha boys in the woodshop, but it was overseen by an Alpha teacher and former Alpha boy, and was then given after ample use to the Alpha directress, Sister Mary Ignatius Davies, who used it to instruct additional Alpha boys. In many ways, the Mutt & Jeff Sound System was an Alpha Boys School sound system.

Mutt’s real name was Kenneth Davy and he named his sound system Mutt and Jeff after the popular comic strip of the day which featured a very tall character, Mutt, and a “half-pint” named Jeff. The comic strip was carried in the Jamaica Star, one of the island’s newspapers. Davy, who was over six feet tall, held the Mutt moniker, and Jeff was better known as Leighton Geoff, a short fellow with an appropriate last name.

            Davy attended Alpha Boys School and was a skilled public speaker and debater. After he graduated, Sister Ignatius asked Davy to return to emcee various school events and presentations, such as plays, concerts, and sporting competitions. He did this all without the aid of any amplification, but around 1956 he purchased a microphone, a small amplifier, and two 12 inch speakers. He quickly moved into providing background music at these events and started hosting sound system dances at Alpha. As word of his entertainment skill spread, Davy started hosting dances outside of Alpha and he soon found the need to upgrade his equipment to meet demand. Davy worked his full-time day job in the Alpha Boys School printery, directing the boys in the trade of setting type, inking presses, and printing books that were then bound in the school’s bindery. With the blessing of Sister Ignatius, Davy’s sound system upgrade was a project handled by the school’s woodshop. The boys learned to produce a custom item under the watchful eye of Davy whose printery was adjacent to the woodshop and he would frequently leave his shop to help supervise the boys with their table saws, sanders, and hammers. The woodshop, like the printery and the pottery shop and the garden and the shoe shop, were not only areas of trade instruction for the boys. They were also revenue makers, as they still are today, helping to offset the operational costs of the school. Making custom items for customers was part of the school’s operation, and part of training for the boys.

Davy’s friend Leighton Geoff was an electrical technician at Wonards, a large appliance store located in downtown Kingston which opened in 1948. Staff at Wonards was akin to staff at Radio Shack today in the U.S., knowledgeable about all things electrical. They were vital to helping make the creative ideas of sound system operators into a reality, wiring speakers to amplifiers. Davy then had the woodshop boys build the speakers into towering cabinets known as “Houses of Joy.” Geoff not only built the speaker system, but he also maintained its clarity, continually fine-tuning the sound for precision. Davy now had his sound system, and with his entrepreneurial spirit he also had the means of marketing his system, using the printery and free labor at Alpha to send advertisements for his events which touted, “Mutt & Jeff Clear As a Bell,” as well as promote his wife Gloria’s catering services since she was a fantastic cook of such local dishes as curry goat and green bananas and rice.

The Mutt & Jeff Sound System played holiday music for a Christmas party for needy children in December, 1959 and that same month played as “the disinherited of the earth were not forgotten” as several hundred “inmates at Bellevue Hospital” were given a party. “A poignant note was struck when they expressed the wish for Christmas that everyone should pray for them that they would soon be well again and happy in their own homes,” said the article. These are just two examples of the charitable outreach that the sound system provided and Davy was able to generate a decent amount of revenue from playing at parties and dances. He decided in 1964 to leave the life of the sound system behind to spend more time with his wife and their eleven children. He sold his entire set, equipment and music, to Sister Ignatius who added the records to her already-large collection. Sister Ignatius had hundreds of 78 and 45 records in her collection—everything from classical music to speeches by Malcolm X. This collection was built from not only Davy’s additions, but Sister Ignatius would regularly send her students, such as Floyd Lloyd Seivright, to purchase records from local record shops, giving him money for the acquisition and a list of her selections.

Real Rude Boys

gun

Rude boys—to those who didn’t live among them, myself included, it’s easy to think of these gangsters as the stylized suave icons we see in illustrations with sunglasses and suits. Or we might think they were like Johnny Too Bad, looting and shooting, but still the stuff of legend, the stuff of myth, the Rhygings or Ivanhoes. Rude boys were real, and many of them were real bad, not as in bad/cool but as in bad/murderers. Rude boys were known align themselves with a sound system operator and defend his turf from opposing rude boys, which is how they came to be associated with the music. Plus, they became part of the music itself by becoming the topic of numerous songs, which I will address in a moment before I share an article about a real rude boy crime.

 

But first, Historian Garth White wrote in 1967 that a rude boy is a “person, native, who is totally disenchanted with the ruling system; who generally is descended from the ‘African’ elements in the lower class and who is now armed with ratchets (German made knives), other cutting instruments and with increasing frequency nowadays with guns and explosives.” White noted that rude boys had similar characteristics, such as similar shoes, hats, music, and stripped motorbikes which served to bind the rude boys together in a community. Rude boys committed minor crimes, such as jumping on the back of a streetcar for a free ride, but other times they were much more violent and committed severe crimes such as murder of fellow rude boys or innocent schoolgirls. Well-known rude boy gangs were the Charles Street Spanglers, Phoenix, Skull, and Vikings.

 

Now, to the music—perhaps the most well-known rude boy songs were made between Derrick Morgan and Prince Buster who shared a rivalry, a musical stick fight. Derrick Morgan’s “Tougher Than Tough” addresses rude boys directly with a judge speaking at the beginning of the song to the gangsters brought in for using ratchets and throwing bombs. Their reply to the judge that “rudies don’t fear” inspired the marginalized youth in Jamaica who turned to crime, and egged on Prince Buster who responded with his Judge Dread songs. Judge Dread was a character in Prince Buster’s songs who sentenced the rude boys, regardless of their pleas for mercy and even crying, to such unreasonable sentences as 400 years behind bars.

 

While Morgan and Prince Buster had their share of back-and-forth songs referencing rude boys and Judge Dread, there were plenty of rude boy songs that either supported the rude boy culture, or denounced it. They reflected the violence of the times, asking the youth to simmer down and put away their ratchets, or they glorified gangsters and stylized criminals with songs like Prince Buster’s “Al Capone and “007 (Shanty Town),” “Rude Boy Train,” and “Rudy Got Soul” by Desmond Dekker, but there were many more that warned of the rude boy lifestyle. “Cry Tough” and “Dance Crasher” by Alton Ellis, “No Good Rudie” by Justin Hinds, “Cool Off Rudies” by Derrick Morgan, “Don’t Be a Rude Boy” by the Rulers, and dozens of others.

 

Without further ado, I would like to share an article from the Daily Gleaner, December 10, 1968, that tells of a real rude boy crime—a murder, which began at a sound system dance. Alton Ellis’s “Dance Crasher” apparently fell on deaf ears when it came to these two brothers, Eddie and George Fraser and their rude boy friends.

 

Inquiry begins into shooting of coconut vendor

 

A preliminary inquiry began in the No. 3 Sutton Street on Tuesday before Mrs. Myrtle Mason, Resident Magistrate, into the fatal shooting of a coconut vendor, Artell Brown, 29, of a Stephen Street address, in August of this year.

 

Before the Court were, Eddie Fraser, Aston Young, George Fraser, John Graham and Harvey Reid, charged with murder and robbery with aggravation.

 

Joscelyn Coot of Tivoli Gardens gave evidence that he went to a dance on King Street on Friday, August 23, where he saw Aston Young and the two Frasers–Eddie Fraser had a gun in his hand and George Fraser said that no one could harm them. Eddie and George Fraser, and Aston Young left the dance and the witness said he left with them too.

 

Coot said that they went down to King Street and on to Heywood Street where Eddie Fraser said that he wanted a coconut and bought it while he, witness, and Aston Young stood at the corner. The man asked for his money and witness said that the man moved towards Eddie Fraser and he was shot by Fraser.

 

Cross-examined by Mr. Maurice Tenn, counsel for Eddie Fraser, witness said that he too was arrested and taken to the Denham Town police station, but was released.

 

Explosion

A domestic servant, Nonna Smith, said that she was going to buy cigarettes when she heard an explosion. She went to where she thought the sound came from and saw a crowd there. Someone whom she knew as Artell was lying on the ground, she said. Smith said she saw two men running up Rose Lane, but could not recognize any of them. Smith said she later attended an identification parade and picked out Harvey Reid as one of the men who she saw walking along Heywood Street.

 

Carlton McBridge told the court that he was the man who operated the sound system at the dance at 145 King Street on August 23. He saw Eddie Fraser and George Fraser there that night. Eddie Fraser had a gun in his hand in front of a girl. Fraser spoke to her and she ran. Both Frasers then went outside. Witness said, when cross-examined by Mr. Tenn, that he did not see Coot there that night. Re-examined by Mrs. Shirley Playfair Clerk of the Courts he said that if Coot was there he would most naturally have seen him.

 

Dr. Noel March, pathologist who performed the post mortem examination deposed as to the injuries he found on the deceased.

 

Iona Eldermire, office maid of 26 Stephen Street, Kingston, told the court that it was she who identified the dead body of Artell Brown.

Julius Vassell, a coconut vendor, told the court that both he and Artell were buying coconuts when a man came up to Artell and told him to give him what he had. He heard a voice saying to “bum the man” and Artell was shot. Vassell identified Eddie Fraser as the man who shot Artell.

 

Robbed

Continuing, Vassell said that Artell fell to the ground after being shot and both he and Artell were robbed. Cross-examined, Vassell said that no one ordered nor drank a coconut.

 

Raymond Boucher deposed that George Fraser, whom he knew as Danny, slept at his house three nights. On a Friday morning Danny got up and sat at the doorway with a gun. He pulled “a thing” from the gun and put four “little things” in it. Danny then left the house.

 

The next day, Boucher said, Danny called him and told him that he knew about the shooting; that it was not he who had done it but Eddie. Harold Williams also gave a deposition. The hearing will continue December 30.

 

Counsel who appeared at the inquiry were Mr. Tenn, who appeared for Eddie Fraser, Mr. Anthony Spaulding for Aston Young, Miss Gloria Thompson for George Fraser, Mr. W. K. Chin See for John Graham, and Mr. Ian Ramsay, Q.C., for Harvey Reid.

 

Incidentally, the counsel for Aston Young, Mr. Anthony Spaulding, is the very same defense attorney, along with P.J. Patterson, who represented Don Drummond in July, 1966 in his murder trial. And Pathologist Noel March who is cited above is the very same Noel March that the defense, Anthony Spaulding and P.J. Patterson, used in Don Drummond’s murder trial to present testimony on the examination of Anita Mahfood’s wounds.

 

Eddie Fraser was found guilty of the murder and was sentenced to death, hanged on January 19, 1971. George Fraser, his younger brother, was sentenced to 12 years hard labor. Mr. Justice Parnell, the judge in No. 1 Home Circuit Court, made comments in sentencing George Fraser might remind one of Judge Dread issuing his sentences of 400 years to Lord Grab and Flee, although it is a bit more based in reality rather than fantasy.

 

“What we are lacking in Jamaica today is strong discipline. I may be old fashioned but that is what I have been brought up on but the young boys and girls of today decide to take charge of the country and do it their way. They get their guns and knives and walk about and terrorize people, shooting and killing, and when they come before the court and are convicted, their youth is urged as strong ground for dealing leniently with them. As far as this case is concerned, I can see no ground why I should not pass a salutary sentence on you. This man’s life was snuffed out in a jiffy while you and the other man were pursuing your wrong,” said Judge Parnell in the Daily Gleaner, June 4, 1969.