Lost Chapter of Ska: An Oral History

For those who have read my book, Ska: An Oral History, you may notice there are two significant artists who are omitted. In fact, the subject of ska history is so large that there are many artists who are not in this book because it is a cursory introduction to the music, many artists have died and therefore cannot be interviewed, and there are some who were unwilling to participate. One of these artists was Prince Buster who granted me an interview for my book, but then when I went to obtain permission in writing, asked for monetary compensation. It was disappointing, to say the least, to receive such a response after being granted the interview, which I still have on tape. I do respect Prince Buster though and know that as a producer, money is the name of the game. Unfortunately, in publishing a book for an academic press, there is no money to be made for authors at all. When I explained this reality, he said this was another reason why he would not want to grant me permission. I also explained that journalism ethics prevented me from offering those I interviewed any money, as that would taint the interview and bias the material. Thus, I maintained my integrity and rewrote the chapter in the eleventh hour.

Another artist who was omitted was Desmond Dekker. I had obtained an interview with Dekker’s manager and close personal friend Delroy Williams and was unable to publish it in the book at the time due to some publishing obligations that Delroy had at the time, but five years have passed and so now I offer this chapter here. Delroy is a sweet man, a kind soul, and an artist in his own right. He still carries the legacy of Desmond Dekker forward and his words here are full of love and friendship. Enjoy.

Delroy Williams (left) and Desmond Dekker (right).

Delroy Williams (left) and Desmond Dekker (right).

My Brother’s Keeper, by Heather Augustyn
Featuring Leon Delroy Williams on Desmond Dekker

His tassels swing from the length of each arm, punctuating the rocksteady rhythm. He electrifies the stage with his charisma, Desmond Dekker in his slanty black beret while people in the crowd who are half his age, even younger, sway to his voice which has become more mellow, more soulful with age, and he still nails every note in the wide vocal range of the hit song “Israelites.” Behind him stands his manager and fellow musician. He echoes the chorus, strums the guitar. But Leon Delroy Williams is much more than a mere manager or performer to Dekker. They are life-long friends, standing together on stage, and standing together through life, and now death. They are brothers.
Desmond Dekker was born Desmond Adolphus Dacres on July 16, 1941 in Kingston. He had a talent for singing, even as a very young child, performing the tunes of artists popular in the U.S., such as Little Richard, Bill Haley, Nat “King” Cole, and Sam Cooke. He attended the famous Alpha Boys School as an orphan since his mother died and his father was unable to raise him. Later in life, Dekker began working as a welder apprentice, but after his fellow employees heard his singing, they encouraged him to seek a career in music. He performed at the Vere Johns Opportunity Hour like so many of his contemporaries and he took time off from work repeatedly to audition at the leading studios of the day. He auditioned for Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid, but both turned him down. However, Leslie Kong saw Dekker’s immeasurable talent, and after a couple of auditions, in front of Derrick Morgan and Jimmy Cliff, accompanied by pianist Theophilus Beckford of “Easy Snappin’” fame, Dekker impressed them all and Kong signed him to the Beverly’s label in 1961.
Dekker was excited to have the promise of a new life and he shared his experience with a fellow welder at his work, encouraging this worker to give Kong another try. This worker, a young Bob Marley, had previously been rejected by Kong, but with Dekker’s support, Marley visited Kong’s studio again, met Jimmy Cliff, and went on to overwhelming fame.
But for Dekker, it would be two years before Kong’s label recorded and released a song. Derrick Morgan recalls, “Desmond Dekker used to be my backup singer because he was with Beverly’s for two years before he sang a song called ‘Honour Your Mother and Father,’ so while he was there, he was doing backup with me.” Dekker’s brother George Dekker, of later Pioneers fame, also sang back up for Morgan on the song “Tougher Than Tough.” For Desmond Dekker, “Honour Your Mother and Father” was an immediate hit in Jamaica. It was recorded under the artist name, “Desmond Dekker & Beverly’s Allstars” since Kong suggested Dacres change his moniker to Dekker. Dekker recorded two more songs before “King of Ska” was another huge hit in 1964, backed up by the Cherrypies who would go on to be known as the Maytals with Toots Hibbert. “King of Ska” put Dekker “right there on top.” He assembled his own group, Desmond Dekker and the Four Aces, backed by Clive Campbell, Easton Barrington Howard, Wilson James, and Patrick Johnson. Dekker continued to put out hits in 1965, including “Get Up Edina” and “Generosity,” among others.
The topics of many of Dekker’s songs were finger-pointing prescriptions for good behavior and finger-wagging admonishments for bad behavior. But in 1967, Dekker added another topic to his repertoire that would endear him, not only to Jamaican youth, but to the British who craved the Jamaican style. The rude boy culture was commemorated in Dekker’s huge hit “007 (Shanty Town)” which reached number one on Jamaican charts, as well as number 15 in the U.K. The tune even became a hit in the U.S. and it was also featured in the movie The Harder They Come. Dekker wrote the song about the violence among the Jamaican youth in the late 1960s. “Dem a loot, dem a shoot, dem a wail in Shanty Town,” said it all. And for the British youth who glamorized such stylish culture, the song sealed Dekker’s position as an icon.
The next year, Dekker won the 1968 Jamaica Festival song contest with “Intensified” and in the same year Desmond release perhaps his greatest song that established Dekker even further as one of the greatest Jamaican artists of all time. The song, “Israelites,” was such a huge hit in Jamaica that Commercial Entertainment, a management company, brought him to the U.K. to tour where he met Leon Delroy Williams. “I first met Desmond when he came over to do ‘Israelites’ and ‘Israelites’ was number one. And we were with the same management company at the time and I was the only black artist they have on their book, and Desmond was the next black artist to get on the books. So the first tour Desmond did, I had to go around with him. He didn’t know nobody,” says Williams.
Leon Delroy Williams was an artist in his own right, and still is today. Raised on a farm in Bamboo St. Ann, Jamaica, Williams moved to England when he was just nine years old. Always having a great love and talent for music, Williams became involved in a soul band and they signed to the Commercial Entertainment management company. “I was doing my own thing with my band at the time,” says Williams. This involved recording for Bell Records in 1968 with reggae renditions of Ben E. King and Billy Joe Royal tunes since Williams had a love for both reggae and soul music.
After the tour with Dekker, the two remained friends, which Williams says was hard for others, but not for him. “Desmond wasn’t the kind of guy that . . . it’s not easy to be his best friend. Desmond did not really trust people. I’m more English and he just arrived from Jamaica and I used to speak the truth to him and I wasn’t a yes man. Because he was a big star, all he had around him was yes men. Nobody was really telling him the truth or trying to educate him about the English ways and the music business,” says Williams. Williams left his management company and signed with another, but he and Dekker would join forces again later, for good.
Until then, Dekker continued to be a popular artist in England as the 2Tone era kicked off in the late 1970s. Dekker signed with Stiff Records, a label that embraced punk and ska music with a slogan, “If it ain’t Stiff, it ain’t worth a fuck.” Bands like Madness, The Belle Stars, The Damned, The Pogues, and Elvis Costello also called Stiff Records home. Dekker’s work inspired the reggae of the Clash, and he produced hit after hit over the years. When the 2Tone movement waned though, Dekker found himself looking for new work.
“About a year after I left, Desmond fell out with his management company so he just went down the road a bit and one time he just say to me, ‘Why don’t we just join together. You do the management. We’ll work on stage together and you be the manager.’ And I just thought about it for a while. I said, ‘Okay, let’s go for it,’ and it lasted for 27 years,” Williams says. It was the longest business partnership that Dekker had. “The longest time he had a manager before I came around was Leslie Kong, which only lasted a few years, and then Commercial Entertainment, he only lasted a few years with them as well. But we were 27 years, traveled the world. We had a good time together,” he says. The two joined forces in 1981.
That business partnership took time, says Williams. “It took him about a year to really put his trust in me. Of course, he had a rough time. All the people he work with before, the managers, they really kind of took him to the cleaners financially. That was the nature of the business. If I was there from day one, he would have made a lot of money. And I could understand why it took him a year to really put his trust in me,” he says. Williams was good for Dekker, both personally and as a business partner. His career grew. “Even when ‘Israelites’ was number mine in the Billboard charts in America, he never get to go there to promote it. Because this company was owned by two people. One don’t like to fly, and one wouldn’t let the other one go with Desmond alone because they know that in America when you go there, next thing they are left behind and they’re out of the picture, so Desmond didn’t get to America until I take over and we did a tour or America. The first tour was five weeks and every couple of years we do five weeks tour and we’ve been all over America,” says Williams who also sang back up for Dekker as a member of the Aces.
One listen to Dekker’s awe-inspiring vocals tells anyone that he was an incredible talent, far surpassing the skill of most all others. So why then isn’t Dekker held up by the masses as one of the greatest artists of all time? Says Williams, “There’s nobody else, no reggae artist, that’s got Desmond’s voice. There are people like Bob Marley and all them who was marketed in a big way. Desmond Dekker wasn’t marketed in a big way. He just got his fame by doing his thing. You don’t read about Desmond in the paper going out with Miss World, or Desmond smoking, and you don’t read those things about Desmond, you understand? You don’t see Desmond on no television game show. He would go on TV just to sing. Desmond was happy to go on stage to sing but he wasn’t happy with being a star, you understand? He just wanted to sing. He didn’t want nothing else, and a lot of people don’t understand that. But that was Desmond. And because people didn’t read a lot of propaganda, people trying to build him up in the papers and things like that, when they see him, they just love him. Of course he wasn’t blasted all over, going out here, doing this, doing that. When you come to a tour, that’s when you see him. And when he’s coming and touring to your part of the world, that’s when you read about him. But apart from that, Desmond wasn’t one of them people that you find in the nightclubs. Desmond, when he’s on tour, he’s on tour. When he home, he’s hard to get out of his house. He love his home. It’s hard to get Desmond out of his house when he’s not working. He just love to be home,” Williams says, speaking of his friend, flipping between past and present tense because he knows he is gone, but yet he is somehow still very present.
Williams speaks of Dekker’s death with great pain. Even though Dekker died of a heart attack at his London home, where he loved to be, on May 25, 2006, the hurt is still so strong for Williams, as well as Dekker’s many fans. “When Desmond died, he was at his fittest. And I say fit because about two weeks before he died we were getting ready to go on this long tour and he left my house on Wednesday at seven o’clock in the evening. At first we were going around looking, he was trying to move from London and he want to go out to the country. For about a week we’ve been driving around looking at different property and we went looking at property on Wednesday and I drop him off and I came home about three o’clock and then at seven o’clock he came round by me because he had to see his kids on Thursday to give them the places of where we were going to be on tour, where we could be contacted and all that. But when he came in, my computer was down so, my printer was down, so I had to write it off. That took a while and he left and the last thing he said to me, we were supposed to meet up at 10:30 the next morning. The last thing he said to me was, ‘Make sure. Make sure. Don’t be late,’ and I laugh, he laugh, and he got in his car and drove off. Four o’clock in the morning, he was dead. So fast. Four o’clock in the morning he was dead. And that was one of the worst times of my life. The worst time of my life. A heart attack came on through high blood pressure and that was it. He was gone,” says Williams.
It is still difficult for Williams to perform, having been used to performing together with his best friend for nearly three decades. “Now I’m back on the road and it took me a year and a half to muster up the strength and the courage to go up there and stand there on my own. The only difference, why we weren’t brothers, was because we weren’t from the same mom and dad. But we were brothers and the whole world knows that,” he says.
As it was in life, now it is in death, that Williams is Dekker’s brother and his keeper. “It still hurts. He’s buried not far from here. I walk down there about once every two weeks. He’s got a beautiful tomb. Some people say I shouldn’t go down there so often, but I have to go, and the reason why I have to go is because he has fans that go down there, and they go and see it in terrible condition, they’re not going to say it’s his children, they’re going to say it’s me. How can you let Desmond’s tomb get in that condition, so that’s why I do it,” says Williams.

 

Totlyn Jackson–First Lady of Jamaican Jazz

Totlyn Jackson, Star Newspaper, June 14, 1961. Caption reads, "Jamaica's Singer, Totlyn Jackson--pictured above with internationally-famous Jamaican entertainer Sagwa Bennett--scatting the ever-popular Mack the Knife at Round Hill Hotel, Montego Bay. Totlyn left Jamaica on Sunday for Bermuda by air en route to London where she expects to fill singing engagements. Whatever her turn of fortune, she expects to be back at Round Hill for the next winter tourist season."

Totlyn Jackson, Star Newspaper, June 14, 1961. The caption reads, “Jamaica’s Singer, Totlyn Jackson–pictured above with internationally-famous Jamaican entertainer Sagwa Bennett–scatting the ever-popular Mack the Knife at Round Hill Hotel, Montego Bay. Totlyn left Jamaica on Sunday for Bermuda by air en route to London where she expects to fill singing engagements. Whatever her turn of fortune, she expects to be back at Round Hill for the next winter tourist season.”

Totlyn Jackson is one of the leading ladies of Jamaican jazz, and beyond. She has an incredible vocal range and can scat with the best of them. Many may know her from her recent work with Basement Jaxx on the 2003 album Kish Kash. But Totlyn has had a long career that started in Jamaica before she moved in London where she still lives today.

Although I devote an entire chapter to Totlyn Jackson in my book, Songbirds: Pioneering Women in Jamaican Music, I recently came across these photos and articles on her when I was scouring the Star Newspaper on microfilm this summer–only four years have been preserved so hopefully the Gleaner, who owns these archives, will be able to fund digitizing all of them. I know they are in the process of making this a priority before the history crumbles forever, as these newspaper are in a very fragile condition at this point. But I digress.

Here is an excerpt from my book that gives a bit of background on Totlyn Jackson:

Totlyn Jackson was born in 1930 in a small village in Port Maria, St. Mary. Her father worked for the government so the family had a bit of status in their town, and their mother was a skilled dressmaker who took care of the home and raised Totlyn and her three siblings—sisters Claire and Peggy and brother Peploe. The family was extremely involved in the Hampstead Presbyterian Church and other social and civic organizations in the community so Totlyn had the opportunity to sing in the church choir and participate in Christmas and other holiday performances. Plus, there was an organ in the family home, so Totlyn taught herself to play and sing, and she also began taking piano lessons from a neighbor. She was born with a club foot which was aggravated by an operation in her childhood. As a result, she has always had a significant physical deformity but she has never let that slow her down.

When Totlyn was 19 years old she moved to Kingston after winning a scholarship to Lincoln College. It was an enormous change for Totlyn, moving from a small village where her family enjoyed social status, to an urban city where she was an unknown. She joined the choir at North Street Cathedral as a soprano and then, like many other talented vocalists and musicians, Totlyn decided to try her hand at the Vere Johns Opportunity Hour. Accompanied by Frankie Bonitto, Totlyn won by singing, “With a Song in My Heart.” She then entered a contest at the upscale Colony Club where Eric Deans led the orchestra.

In Myrna Hague’s article in the spring/summer 2009 issue of Wadabagei, Totlyn remembers, “Coming out of a church situation, I was wearing boots and socks and an inappropriate dress, but Eric [Deans] knew what he was doing with me. Eric had inherited a big band folio—we didn’t call it jazz—I didn’t know anything about jazz. I was treated as a curiosity but I didn’t know it then! . . . I began to work with Eric and was making a name for myself at the Bournemouth Club every Friday where I came into my own. When Lester left, many of his abandoned musicians joined the Eric Deans band including Don Drummond, Brevett, and Lloyd Knibb. He [Lloyd Knibb] never had the hang-ups like Brevett and Don Drummond; Drummond and I never spoke more than ten sentences; he had his anger and stuff that he did—I was never a part of what was going on. I was the only full-time professional singer; the others were part-time with daytime jobs. Friday nights at the Bournemouth and Sonny’s [Bradshaw] got in touch with me for the first big band concert at the Ward; by this time everyone thought of me as a jazz singer because of this concert, and I could sight-read, so I was easy to work with.”

From the Star Newspaper, February 23, 1962. Caption reads, "Back in the island for a holiday since Sunday after stints in London and Bermuda night clubs is Jamaica sweetheart of jazz and blues, Totlyn Jackson who makes an appearance at Flamingo Hotel at 11.30 tomorrow night. Totlyn, who is currently engaged at Bermuda's leading night club, Jungle Room, spent three months in London appearing at the Stork Room, among other spots. She says that while in London she met tenor saxophonist little 'G' McNair whom she affirms is 'just gone with his sounds.' Tonight's show will be Totlyn's only one in the island as she leaves on Sunday for Bermuda. Music tonight will be supplied by Charlie Binger's Band."

From the Star Newspaper, February 23, 1962. Caption reads, “Back in the island for a holiday since Sunday after stints in London and Bermuda night clubs is Jamaica sweetheart of jazz and blues, Totlyn Jackson who makes an appearance at Flamingo Hotel at 11.30 tomorrow night. Totlyn, who is currently engaged at Bermuda’s leading night club, Jungle Room, spent three months in London appearing at the Stork Room, among other spots. She says that while in London she met tenor saxophonist little ‘G’ McNair whom she affirms is ‘just gone with his sounds.’ Tonight’s show will be Totlyn’s only one in the island as she leaves on Sunday for Bermuda. Music tonight will be supplied by Charlie Binger’s Band.”

Totlyn Jackson also performed at the Bournemouth Beach Club with Lester Hall’s Orchestra featuring Don Drummond and she frequently sang with Baba Motta’s Band, the Zodiacs, Sonny Bradshaw’s Orchestra, and Herman Lewis and the Glass Bucket Band. She performed in a show at the Carib Theatre on February 5, 1966 with the son of Frank Sinatra, the 18-piece Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, and the Caribs. She even performed for Prime Minister Norman Manley’s birthday on July 3, 1956, singing a song composed for him by Frank Clarice of Little London in Westmoreland that moved Manley to tears. Her only recording on the island was for W.I.R.L—“Island in the Sun” with the B side “Yellow Bird” in 1963 with the Audley Williams Combo.

From the Daily News Thursday June 7,1973. Courtesy Roberto Moore.

From the Daily News Thursday June 7,1973. Courtesy Roberto Moore.

 

In the mid-1950s, Totlyn frequently sang with another jazz vocalist who predated her career—Julian Iffla. Iffla had been singing in Kingston clubs since the late 1949s and also performed with orchestras of the day including Eric Deans, Baba Motta, Sonny Bradshaw, George Moxey, Frankie Bonitto, and Lester Hall with Don Drummond. Iffla also performed in musicals and pantomime and was billed as “Velvet Voiced.”

While Totlyn’s life was beginning to thrive in Kingston, her family’s life back in Port Maria was crumbling. Her mother and father split up and her mother came to stay with Totlyn. But Totlyn had been living in the home of one of her professors at Lincoln College as part of the scholarship arrangement and her mother couldn’t live there. So Totlyn moved her fractured family into the home of Joe Issa, owner of Issa’s department store. “One day my two sisters and brother arrived, because Dada said that if I was big enough to look after Mama, I could look after them too,” she said in Myrna Hague’s article. Hague comments, “Her father was probably resentful of her [Totlyn’s] show of independence, and because of whatever had gone on between her mother and him, he no longer wanted them or perhaps responsibility of them.”

totlyn

Soon, Totlyn had yet another family member to care for while balancing her career. She met an advertising executive from New York on his travels to the island when he came to Glass Bucket Club for one of her performances. “I eventually became pregnant. I didn’t want to get married. I had seen how unhappy these wives were, including my mother. I wondered, ‘Should I have this child?’ There was no one to ask this kind of intimate question,” she says in Hague’s article. But she did have the child, a son named Franz. His father, Jack Conroy, the ad executive, died in a car accident shortly before he was born. Totlyn never married—not then, not ever. But she did have her share of boyfriends. “That’s where I met my contacts and my boyfriends,” said Totlyn to Myrna Hague of her time singing at the Glass Bucket Club. “I wanted a first-class life and so what I needed was people who could take me onto that plateau, to take me up.”

One of those boyfriends who took her career up was a man named Michael Rouse and she left Jamaica to go to London with him in 1960. She also left her son to be raised by her mother. “I went to London to join him [Michael Rouse] when he offered to handle my career, and then he became a fully-fledged impresario who was handling people like Juliet Greco, Los Paraguayos, Gilbert Becaud, Miriam Makeba, and others of that ilk. We eventually broke up because he couldn’t sell me and I resented that. When I complained he said that he loved me too much. I thought that was crap but friends said that it was possible because he was afraid of losing me. . . . He couldn’t or wouldn’t arrange a tour for me. He was not a very good businessman,” Totlyn told Myrna Hague.

You can read more about Totlyn and her career in my book, but suffice to say that she has had a long and successful career in London. Below are a few clips of Totlyn Jackson performing in recent years. She’s still got it!!

Here’s a video of Totlyn Jackson performing a tune with Basement Jaxx to get you in the mood for Christmas!

Amateur footage of Totlyn Jackson performing in 2011, scat-a-lat-a-dong-dong!

 

Basement Jaxx with Totlyn Jackson, “Supersonic.”

Here is a link to Myrna Hague’s brilliant article about Totlyn Jackson, which begins on page 40:

Don Drummond in the Mid-1950s

My friend Roberto Moore, a researcher and historian who lives in Kingston, was generous to send me a few clips related to Don Drummond from Star Newspaper archives from the mid-1950s. I asked him if I could share these on my blog and he kindly said yes, so here are the fruits of his labor.

From the Star Newspaper, October 26, 1956. Sonny Bradshaw's "Batman" column.

From the Star Newspaper, October 26, 1956, “Batman” column. Courtesy of Roberto Moore.

 

First is this clip from the Star Newspaper on October 26, 1956 in the “Batman” column, rumored to have been written by Sonny Bradshaw which states, “Don Drummond, ace-trombonist is now selling insurance by day.” I had heard this over the years and was never able to confirm it and I find this instance of it in print intriguing. As I discussed with Roberto, Drummond would have recently left Bradshaw’s band in 1956, so Bradshaw, if he is the writer of this column, is not what the journalism world would call impartial here. He may have a bias, who knows. If it is Bradshaw, might be be kind of sticking it to Drummond? How long did this venture last and was it really a foray into a new line of work and why would he pursue this at this point in his life? Who knows, but it should be viewed in context, and it is quite a thought to entertain, Drummond in his suit and boogas, briefcase in hand, peddling paperwork, as Roberto and I mused.

From the Star Newspaper, December 17, 1957. Courtesy of Roberto Moore.

From the Star Newspaper, December 17, 1957. Courtesy of Roberto Moore.

Drummond’s day job was likely short lived, if it ever did amount to anything, because as this clip shows from December 17, 1957, Drummond was back center stage for Jazz at the Carib performing with Sonny Bradshaw. Here is a better photo of the one pictured above in the article.

Jazz at the Carib 1957.

Jazz at the Carib 1957. Caption reads: Jazz ‘57 at the Carib Theater last Wednesday night, presented the cream of the island’s progressive jazz musicians. Led by trumpeter band director Sonny Bradshaw extreme right, these instrumentalists collaborate on one of the several hits of the evening. Taking the other solo, third from left is trombonist Don Drummond. Next to him, Johnny Lawes (?) on bass. At the back of the bandstand Kenny Williams plays drums, and at the piano is Aubrey Adams. Jerome Walters, on bongos second from right completes the combo.

 

The article, written by Hartley Neita, reads: The 1957 edition of the jazz concert at the Carib last Wednesday night proved to be the best of this series so far. It contained three hours of music that never failed to entertain and excite, and unlike the two previous editions all the arrangements ran smoothly.

As usual the show was divided into three sections. The first introduced the Jamaica concert orchestra and began with the jazz concert anthem “Jump for Joe,” patterned after Stan Kenton’s arrangement, and it served as a background for MC Fred Wilmot’s introduction of the members of the orchestra.

Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train” opened the program, and conductor Sonny Bradshaw’s variation of the tune served notice of great things to come. Immediately after this time, there were two relaxing songs by Buddy Eigner. His first song, “You Make Me Feel So Young,” seemed somewhat lifeless, but his second, “My Funny Valentine” was Buddy at his great best.

The concert orchestra’s interpretation of Woody Herman’s “Four Brothers” was lively but the sax section sounded light owing to the absence of a baritone voicing to give it depth. “A Night in Jamaica” was the next offering, and original composed and arranged by trombonist Carlos Malcolm. Incidentally, Carlos was the hit of the show in that in his scoring was evident in a number of the arrangements played by the Orchestra in the vocal group, the Hi-Fis.

Totlyn Jackson’s “Over the Rainbow” was done in a very professional manner as was her “From this Moment On.” Totlyn has improved in her stage presence but I wonder whether this professional approach is not countered by a sacrificial subjection of the true beauty of her voice.

The second section of the show featured the sounds of the small group’s “heart of jazz.” Baba Motta’s Glass Bucket Band started things sailing with three sections. His “In Bond” was a perfect example of improvised counterpoint in jazz.

Sheila Rickard, a fourteen-year-old girl singer, surprised the audience with a grown-up, first rate interpretation of “Moonlight in Vermont” and a snappy “I Got Rhythm.” Sheila will be Jamaica’s next big singer and in the years to come will successfully take the place now occupied by Totlyn Jackson and Louise Lamb.

The UCWI Trio led by Lee Johnson of Antigua on piano with Sydney Christian of St. Kitts on bass and our own (non-UC student) Ken Williams on drums gave three well received items, the best of which was their interpretation of the Modern Jazz Quartet’s famous classic “Django.” The UC Trio also accompanied Young Satchmo in his three parodies of which “Standard” was a showstopper.

As I expected the Lennie Hibbert Quintet featuring Aubrey Adams on piano was a delight. Theirsecond offering, Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are” was played with plenty of soul and feeling and their arrangement earned plenty of applause from an extremely well behaved audience. Their third piece was a Sonny Bradshaw composition and arrangement, “Profile,” which is a tune that could have a world market and which was brilliantly played by the quintet.

Tthe Hi-Fi’s deserve a whole article for themselves. They are by far the best vocal group in Jamaica at present and I would suggest that their leader and arranger Carlos Malcolm include in his album some arrangements of Jamaican songs. It is an exciting quartet!

Happily the Simms and Robinson Rock ‘n Roll duo did not appear on the show as they did not attend any rehearsals. But I do not think their absence was felt, and the success of the show without any rock ‘n roll overtones certainly suggests that this type of innocuous music has not completely captivated the Jamaican public. 

 

From the same Star Newspaper, December 17, 1957.

From the same Star Newspaper, December 17, 1957.

Here is another photo that ran in that same newspaper. The caption reads, “The Message–from trombonist Don Drummond called his own composition and arrangement played in Jazz ’57 at the Carib theatre last night, and from the appreciative reception accorded the piece, there was no doubt that the message came across. He is seen here as he swings that slide, accompanied by (left to right) Jerome Walters (bongos), Aubrey Adams (piano), Lennie Hibbert (vibes), and at the back of the dais, Kenny Williams (drums) and Johnny Lawes (bass). Jazz ’57 was well received by the big crowd which braved last night’s chilly winds to hear the cream of the island’s jazz artists present at this year’s jazz jam.

I write about that song, “The Message,” in my book, Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist. It was a song that made crowds go wild. Below is a better resolution of the photo above.

Jazz '57 from the Star Newspaper, December 17, 1957.

Jazz ’57 from the Star Newspaper, December 17, 1957.

Calypso Contest and the Jolly Boys

The Jolly Boys

The Jolly Boys–A Recent Publicity Photo

The Jolly Boys have experienced a rebirth in recent years, perhaps due in part to their calypso coverage of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” which is a spirited and novel rendition. I especially love their calypso cover of Iggy Pop’s “Passenger.” It is said that their name was given was given to them by Errol Flynn since they frequently played for his shin-digs in Port Antonio. I don’t pretend to know much about the Jolly Boys, but I do want to share here two articles that I recently found in the Star Newspaper that are related to the Jolly Boys. One is an advertisement for a Calypso Band Contest sponsored by Wray & Nephew from the Star on June 19, 1962. The Jolly Boys entered this contest and performed quite well, as evidenced in the next article I found.

From the Star Newspaper, June 19, 1962.

From the Star Newspaper, June 19, 1962.

 

On July 17, 1962, the Star Newspaper wrote in an article titled, “Jolly Boys Top Calypso Contest,” their success was profiled. The article stated, “Port Antonio, Saturday. A large crowd turned out at Delmar Theatre Wednesday night last when the J. Wray & Nephew Calypso Band Elimination All Island Contest was staged. The Wray & Nephew band, led by Trenton Spence, entertained with many numbers then the artistes—Kid Harold who received a big hand from the audience, Herbert Russell and his partner thrilled all who watch them go through their acrobatic dancing and marveled at the precision of the team, Lascelles Perkins whose magnificent voice was heard to good advantage, and Annette Clarke—all entertained the audience prior to the more serious part of the programme. Two bands entered the contest which was judged for appearance, delivery, musical technique, and the lyric and rhythm for a Wray & Nephew Calypso for Independence. Mr. Jimmy Cashman, the firm’s representative, was master of ceremonies, and the judges for the contest were Messrs. Mortimer Geddes, Headmaster of Titchfield School, G. P. Eubanks, deputy supt. of Police, and Miss C. N. Grant. It was a keen contest between the two bands and resulted in the Jolly Boys taking the edge over Jamaica Reef Calypso Band. It was a proud team consisting of Noel Lynch, bandleader, Moses Deans, Martel Brown, Derrick Henry, Alexander Brown, who came on stage to receive the judges report. The Jolly Boys won £25 prize for the eliminations and they will compete at the finals to be held at the Ward Theater in Kingston on Thursday 19th of July. Cartons of rum were donated to each judge, to the Rev. Father Gardiner Gibson, SJ who congratulated the winners, and the leaders of both the contesting bands by Mr. Cashman on behalf of the company. The grand finals will be held in Kingston on Thursday next (July 19).”

 

From the Star Newspaper, July 17, 1962.

From the Star Newspaper, July 17, 1962.

 

Here’s another advertisement that ran in the Daily Gleaner on the day of the big event, July 19, 1962:

From the Daily Gleaner, July 19, 1962.

From the Daily Gleaner, July 19, 1962.

I can’t find any article or write-up on who won this contest, but I did find a few more articles and advertisements for the Jolly Boys, which I post here.

 

From the Daily Gleaner, September 30, 1967.

From the Daily Gleaner, September 30, 1967.

 

From the Daily Gleaner, March 3, 1964.

From the Daily Gleaner, March 3, 1964.

 

From the Daily Gleaner, April 11, 1977.

From the Daily Gleaner, April 11, 1977.

 

And here is an article on mento which features The Jolly Boys written by Roy Black.

From the Jamaica Gleaner, February 12, 2012.

From the Jamaica Gleaner, February 12, 2012.

 

To hear a little of the Jolly Boys, check these links out to three of my favorite songs.

Here are the original members, or a few of them, recorded in 1989 with No Rice, No Peas, No Coconut Oil:

 

Rehab:

 

The Passenger:

Blue Monday: