Count Prince Miller

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Part actor, part vocalist, part, well, dare I say funny guy? Count Prince Miller is an entertainer extraordinaire and a true Jamaican legend. Born Clarence Linberg Miller in 1935, Count Prince Miller performed on numerous stages in Kingston beginning in the 1950s. He typically performed as part of a larger stage show, appearing with other acts, including Byron Lee & the Dragonaires and Jimmy James & the Vagabonds.

I happened to find an article on Count Prince Miller in the Star Newspaper,in the National Library archives in Kingston last winter and thought I’d share it here. I’ve typed the text below in case your eyes, like mine, are not as good as they used to be! The article is written by Mickey O’Bryan on June 29, 1962.

count articleThe article reads:

The demand for music of other nationalities is so popular in Jamaica that our musicians and artistes give little or no thought to the excellent idea of creating and maintaining styles of their own.

Most of them who have tried to accomplish this quality of self-confidence are discouraged by either non-appreciative audiences or economical reasons, which are so commonly known.

Here is a young hero, one who has fought the battle of discouragement, one who has persisted long and hard years of studies: a singer who approached the musical profession with a desired goal and worked honestly and sincerely. He is no other person that Count Prince Miller.

Count Prince Miller, christened Clarence Miller, was born in Port Maria 25 years ago, as a lad attending the elementary school in his hometown, his first desire was to be minister of religion. Seeing the ambition of this lad, his mother encouraged him to take part in all the activities of the local church of God where he was noted for his emotional approach to singing.

After reaching the age of ten, his mother thought it best to take Baby Count to Kingston where he could get an early start on his desired profession.

But the Count changed his mind the moment he landed at his new home at the western side of this city.

In Kingston he was sent to Stewart’s School in the Greenwich Town area. At that school Clarence did well with his lessons but rock ‘n’ roll was getting popular in Jamaica and was also infiltrating into the young man’s blood.

Well in his teens, Clarence decided to try one of Vere Johns’ auditions. He didn’t make the grade but was encouraged by Vere Johns to keep trying. After several weeks studying the lyrics of the current rock ‘n’ roll songs, Clarence decided to form his own group.

In his search, he found vocalists Bobby Weston, Herman Weston, Winston Service, and Howard Butler pianist. He named this group the ‘Downbeats.’ The group was dissolved when the Westons started attending high school and Howard Butler started making appearances on the Northcoast.

Again alone, Count started making his name as a lone-man singer.

‘I can’t bother to imitate the American artists. To do that I would have to sound exactly like the person I am imitating, and that is very hard.’ Those words came from Count when he was asked why he is not a copy cat.

But Count’s own imaginative creation took him to the Edison Club in Toronto, Canada.

In Bermuda, Count Prince Miller’s appearances were so successful at the Eara Club that he was handed a five-week TV contract. Count Prince Miller also made smashing appearances at the Slipper Club in Nassau and the Town Hall in Grand Cayman.

Count Prince Miller is one of our symbols of gaiety. His showmanship has so far been the spark that ignites our social moods.

 

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From the Star Newspaper, May 25, 1962.

 

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In 1969, Count Prince Miller was emcee of the Caribbean Music Festival at Wembley Stadium. Here is the page from the program with a short feature on Miller:

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The following is an article that appeared in the Jamaica Gleaner on January 25, 2007:

COUNT PRINCE Miller won the coveted Best Male Actor Award at the 2006 Black Film Makers’ International Awards Ceremony, held recently at the Curzon Theatre
in Piccadilly, London West End, England. He was the lead male actor in the film Winnie and the Duppy Bat, which was written and directed by Annette Laufer. Born Clarence Linberg Miller in the parish of St. Mary, Jamaica, Count Prince Miller is a veteran performer involved in the international entertainment industry for over 50 years. He has previously appeared in several film and television productions, including;
■ The James Bond Original Dr No-1962
■ Kid Creole’s Something Wrong in Paradise – 1984
■ For Queen and Country with Denzel Washington – 1989
■ The Popular B B C situation comedy The Desmonds – 1989-1994

Miller is perhaps best known for his hit recording for the Trojan label, Mule Train Parts One & Two, which was recorded in 1971. In the early 1980s, he re-recorded Mule Train with Sly and Robbie, adding to his popularity as a performer. Mr. Miller resides in the United Kingdom.

 

As the article above states, Count Prince Miller had a small role in Dr. No, but if you’ve seen it, it’s a memorable one! He is the crazy dancer in the calypso club scene in which Byron Lee & the Dragonaires play.

Here is a still I tried to get from the clip, as well as a link to the clip itself. Count Prince Miller appears at 32 seconds into the clip, and again at 1:19.

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Link to Dr. No calypso scene

 

count sept 2014 Count Prince Miller, Jamaica Gleaner, September 20, 2014

See Count Prince Miller perform the beginning of his classic song Mule Train live in 1970 HERE.

Hear the entire song here: Mule Train

Bewildered

The Monkey

When We Were Children

Rupert the Bear

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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.

 

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?